vase with nine peach design


Currently on View in K308.p9
Image Licensing

This decoration appears realistic, but in nature, buds, blossoms, leaves and fruit never appear together.

Peaches are symbols of immortality, and "nine" has the same sound as the word for "a long time."

Many decorations in Chinese art are actually rebuses, or image puzzles; the images, when pronounced, had the same sound as other auspicious words or ideas.

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

This lyrical image of a peach branch is portrayed very naturalistically, even though it shows an impossible state of affairs: peach buds, blossoms, leaves, and fruit could never appear on one branch at the same time. A magical, timeless quality arising from this simultaneity reinforces the immortality or longevity symbolized by the peach motif. One of the more popular legends concerning the peach is that of Xiwangmu, mythological Queen Mother of the West, who is said to have a peach tree that bears fruit every three thousand years. When the fruit ripens, Xiwangmu invites immortals to partake of the miraculous peach of eternal life.

This large porcelain vase was made under imperial patronage, as the six-character reign mark on the bottom signifies. The design is particularly successful because the painter was sensitive to the vase’s complex shape—notice how the placement on the shoulder makes the peaches more prominent. Such vases are among the most admired type of porcelain objects from this period. The quality, size, and choice of subject made this vase suitable for display in any room of the emperor’s palace.

Qing-dynasty artists attained an unprecedented technical skill in their handling of ceramics and glazes. In the early 1700s, they discovered that by adding a white pigment to translucent, tinted enamels they could obtain opaque colors. This allowed enamelers to work with a palette of colors similar to that used in oil painting, a medium introduced to China through contact with European missionaries and traders.

S. Davis of St. Louis, Missouri, C. T. Loo / Frank Caro (invoice 06 March 1953 $2,800) Mr. & Mrs. Eli Lilly, Indianapolis, Indiana; given to the John Herron Art Institute, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, in 1960.

Object Information

Qing dynasty
creation date
porcelain with overglaze enamels
19-1/2 x 14-1/2 (diam.) in.
mark descriptions
Da Qing Qianlong nian zhi
accession number
credit line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Eli Lilly
Public Domain
Asian Art

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