A closer look at the vase that’s opening Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong

Sotheby’s Hong Kong Chinese Works of Art Autumn Sale Series 2018 is sure to be memorable this year as the auction will open with the famed Yamanaka Reticulated Vase. This vase has remained hidden away in a private collection since 1924. The vase once belonged to the Imperial collection of the Qianlong Emperor and is considered to be one of the most complex vases ever commissioned by him. This vase is the pair to the famous Bainbridge Vase which fetched £43 million at auction back in 2010.

It is carved and painted with four pairs of fish below Rococo-inspired motifs on a yellow sgraffiato ground, the exceptional famille-rose reticulated vase is skillfully modelled with an inner blue-and-white vase. It boasts anopenwork design composed of stylized archaistic dragons. Reticulated, doubled vases like this were one of the last great innovations devised by Tang Ying, who served as the creative supervisor for the kilns of the Qianlong Emperor.

This vase features some design elements inspired by western art too including the formal designs on the yellow ground with their curled feathery fronds which are strongly influenced by the Western Rococo style. These details are interspersed with traditional Chinese motifs like the double fish, ‘good luck’ talismans, ruyi lappets and musical stones.

“It is a great privilege for us to offer this Qing reticulated vase from the Imperial collection of the Qianlong Emperor this season. Not only is the vase unique and elaborate in design, it is also in pristine condition. To think, the distance the singularly fragile vase has travelled, and the tumultuous times it has survived, for it to be standing here in front of us today without so much as a crack or a chip, is truly extraordinary,” said Nicolas Chow, Chairman, Sotheby’s Asia, International Head and Chairman, Chinese Works of Art.

This vase will bring all the collectors to Hong Kong on 3 October.


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