Cloisonné Enamel Vases with Carp Design

19th Century
17.5” h. 8.5” w.d.

This pair of cloisonné vases is formed on a copper base, with the enameling quite free of impairment of earlier period enamel-works. Early cloisonné productions were of cast bronze. The cast bronzes contained gas bubbles, which escaped from the metal during the enameling heating process, and, as a consequence, damaged the enamel by producing on the surface of the enamel-work myriads of little pits and bubbles. Copper is much less affected by this problem. So, since the 18th century, almost all cloisonné are made of copper and is an important fact in dating cloisonné.

This pair of vases has a pleasing gently curving ovoid-shaped body decorated with brilliantly with colorful carps swimming among vivid green seaweed. The carp motive is repeated around the wide, gently curved neck. (The carp is the fish most frequently depicted in Chinese art. It symbolizes the wish to succeed in business. As the carp manages to overcome rapids even when swimming upstream, it is also a symbol of perseverance.) The two parts are separated at the shoulder by a heart-shaped trefoil ornamental band. The mouth of each vase is flared. The down-turned rim is decorated with a band of ruyi lappets, (a form derived from the end of a ruyi scepter), while the base of the vase ends in a frieze of contiguous stylized lotus petals. The bottom of the vase has a narrow copper band on the outer edge, with a raised copper ring next to it surrounding a turquoise blue enamel center. Each vase has a bronze stylized dragon as handles. The inside of the vase is of painted enamel in a turquoise blue color. This pair of vases is quite well-made.