Twin Vases with Carved Stand
On View: Asian Galleries, West, 2nd floor (China)
These joined twin vases were modeled on ancient bronze-arrow containers, given as rewards for military valor. On the front, a falcon—with outspread wings and one foot resting on the head of a monster—symbolizes courage, strength, and authority. The monster’s body passes between the bases of the vessels, and its flame-like tail is visible on the back, where it supports a dragon, the emblem of the emperor.
Cloisonné enamel on copper alloy, gilt bronze
25 1/4 x 15 x 13 in., 74.5 lb. (64.1 x 38.1 x 33 cm, 33.79kg) (show scale)
Gift of Samuel P. Avery
"Champion Vase." Large twin vases modeled on bronze arrow containers given as rewards for military valor. Each vase is hexagonal and has a foot of medium height that spreads slightly and had a somewhat wider, almost straight rim at the bottom. The bodies are very tall, straight, and not much wider than the feet. The necks are rather low and concave in outline. Narrow rims projects a little from the top and bottom of the bodies. The vases are securely fastened together. A falcon, with one foot resting on the head of the monster, and outspread wings, symbolizing courage, strength, and authority, is applied to the front of the vessel. The monster's flame-like tail goes through to the back of the vessel and supports a dragon, the emblem of the emperor. The forms of such objects embellished with imperial symbolism can be traced to antiquity when Chinese political culture was governed by the performance of ceremonial rituals in the court. Copper gilded on the rims, the bases, the insides of the mouths, and the monster and falcon, and decorated on the sides with cloisonné enamels. On the feet and necks are lotus scrolls, and on the bodies are large single floral heads set in a diapering patterned ground, the lines of which have small flower heads at the junctures. The colors, which are dull, are pink, red, dark blue, white, yellow, brown, and two shades of green on a dark turquoise blue ground. The foot is engraved with fret patterns.
Twin Vases with Carved Stand, 1736-1795. Cloisonné enamel on copper alloy, gilt bronze, 25 1/4 x 15 x 13 in., 74.5 lb. (64.1 x 38.1 x 33 cm, 33.79kg). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Samuel P. Avery, 09.606a-b. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 09.606a-b_side1_PS2.jpg)
side, 09.606a-b_side1_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2009
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What is this?
This impressive type of vessel is known as a Champion Vase. The name is a pun on the Chinese words for "falcon and bear." Champion vases combine two vessels that are joined by animals. In this case, it's a really elaborate bird standing on a monster!
The two vessels are based on antique arrow containers. There was a huge interest in antiquity and reviving older shapes and styles in the Qing dynasty. During this time, books were published on the subject, which had illustrations of these ancient forms.
Make sure you walk around the vessel! The back is pretty cool.
Okay we did. Thank you！
Can you tell me about this?
This vessel is known as a "champion vase." The name is a pun based on the Chinese words for "falcon" and "bear". These vases combine two vessels which are joined by an animal. In this case, there is a very elaborate bird perched on a monster.
The form of the vessels in this piece is based on arrow containers. The technique used to apply the enamel on this piece is called "cloisonné". This technique entered China from the Middle East during the Yuan Dynasty. The result is spectacular.
What kind of animal is this?
This is a dragon! Interestingly, in the Chinese tradition you can tell by how many toes are on the dragon whether an artwork was meant for the palace or not.
The dragon was a symbol of the emperor, but because this one has less than five toes on each foot, we know that this vase did not belong to the emperor. Instead it was an award for a member of the military.
Tell me more.
That's a lotus flower! One of the reasons this turquoise color may have been so popular is because it may have represented a watery setting for the lotus flower, itself a symbol of Buddhist enlightenment.