Floris Van der Ven - Art D’orient.


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Lion & Herons

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722)

H: 22cm


- Private Collection, Belgium

An unusual enamel on biscuit group of a cavorting lion (shi) leaping on the top of a mountainous rock, with two herons standing at its craggy base. The pierced brown rock, with green glazed ‘mossy’ areas, is club-shaped with a wider oval base. It has yellow flowering branches climbing up the side and grassy tufts on the base. The long-legged aquatic birds, either side of the high rock, are enameled in variegated sancai enamels.

Herons (lu) and egrets (lu) are very similar wading birds, both belonging to the Ardeidae family and referred to interchangeably in China. Their name (lu鹭) has a number of homophones including ‘officials salary’ and ‘road or path’. As symbols of purity and longevity, when pictured in muddy waters they are a metaphor for an official who is not corrupted by his surroundings. They can also signify that one is on the road to prosperity. Due to their symbolism and beauty these elegant birds are also a frequently used subject for paintings.


The lion is a very popular motif in Chinese art, with great symbolic meaning. Buddhist lions, also known as Fo Dogs, are considered auspicious animals and associated with harmony and protection. They are also used to identify first and second rank military officials on robe badges.


A very similar group was sold by Vanderven Oriental Art at the Ceramics Fair, London in 1988. A pair of enamel on biscuit perched birds, on very similar rockery bases, were exhibited at the Chinese Art exhibition in Berlin in 1929.



Berlin 1929, p.354 nr.965

London 1988, p.88

Pei 2004 p.66, 97 & 114 fig. A
Welch 2008, p.74

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Daoist Deity

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722)

H: 22,6 cm


With Chait Galleries, New York (label)


A figure of a Daoist Warrior God, glazed all over the front in Egg & Spinach splashed enamels in amber, aubergine brown and green. His head, hands, bare feet and back of the figure are left uncoloured, having only a thin transparent glaze. His bald head with long lobed ears, has an unusual third eye (eye of wisdom) in his forehead. The whispy long beard and moustache are glazed brown. He is sitting on a high backed throne wearing full elaborate military armour, embellished with a pattern of scales, worn over robes. The tunic is gathered over the chest with a narrow belt. Another belt, with a large buckle in the form of a tiger’s head, sits lower on his stomach and from it hangs a large fish. In his right hand rests a sword, the hilt pointing up and the point resting in the hand. His left hand faces outward in what appears to be the the apana mudra (thumb touching his middle and ring fingers).


The additional eye on his forehead, could indicate he is Erlang Shen 二郎神 , the god with a third truth-seeing eye. A noble and powerful Warrior God, he embodies justice and righteousness. He is thought to have helped regulate China's large rivers and watercourses against devastating torrential floods, which could explain the fish which hangs from his belt. Also known for having superhuman strength, he was said to be able to cleave mountains with his axe. According to a Chinese myth, Erlang Shen’s powerful third eye - placed vertically in the middle of his forehead - could differentiate between an honest, good man and an evil one. His eye was also able to detect incoming enemies from vast distances and destroy them without using any weapons. The only other deity in the Daoist pantheon with a third eye, is Ma Wangye 馬王爺 - Old King Ma - one of four Daoist  heavenly Marshalls who protect the cardinal directions. He was considered a god of justice and his third eye could also detect truthfulness.

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Splashed Vase

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722)

H: 20,5 cm


Private Collection, United Kingdom

A rare and unusual 'Egg & Spinach' glazed globular bottle vase, with a flaring neck decorated in variegated green, ochre, brown on a white ground. It is decorated in reserve with a Buddhist lion, freely painted in a deep aubergine, frolicking with a brocade ball and surrounded by stylised flames and clouds.


Lions entered Chinese imagery, along with the introduction of Buddhism from India (c.1st Century AD), often symbolising protection and wisdom. As a motif, they gradually made an interesting metamorphosis, from scary guardians to being portrayed as amusing and playful creatures. The Buddhist  lion with a cloth or brocade ball (qiu) is a common combination. An ancient legend tells that the lion produces milk for its young from its paws, country folk would leave hollow balls in the hills so that the lions, would be tempted to play with them, in doing so leaving their milk in them.


Vases in various shapes and sizes with the splashed egg and spinach glazes do occur – though very rarely with decoration in reserve. Two vases, with an all-over decoration, are in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, New York ( & 79.2.120). An almost identical vase from the famous Nellie Ionides collection, was auctioned at Christie’s, London  June 2003 (lot 114).

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Enamel on Biscuit porcelain figure of a Blackamoor
China, Kangxi period (1662-1722) circa 1720

Height: 38 cm

Provenance: Private Collection, Paris France 2017


A very rare, Enamel on Biscuit figure of a blackamoor. He stands barefoot and bare-chested, with his left hand on his hip and the right holding a yellow cornucopia. The laughing face has an open mouth and eyes, black eyebrow and a gold star on his forehead. The earlobes are pierced and he dons a thin gold hairband. He wears beaded bracelets, bangles around the ankles and a gold collar around the neck. The three-tiered skirt is decorated in famille verte enamels with a strong blue enamel. The gold order sash, has a central star insignia. The arms, legs and upper body have painted black hair under the glaze.


There had been dark skinned Africans in China as early as the Tang Dynasty, who would have entered the country via the trade routes. But by the Qing dynasty they were rarity. We can therefore assume, that a European print would have been the source of inspiration for this figure. Particularly the attributes he carries are distinctly European – such as the cornucopia and the sash.


Africans had lived in Europe - as free men and slaves - since Roman times, particularly in the countries around the Mediterranean. By the 17th and 18th centuries, dark skinned foreigners were present as servants and page boys in aristocratic households. This corresponds with the era of expansion of trade with America and the Far East, as well as the increased slave trade with West Africa. As with many of the imported trade goods, they were considered a luxury; a fashionable and suitably exotic status symbol, for the nobles and royalty who employed them.

Moors were often portrayed in the arts of the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Some of the finest examples, made around the same time as our figure, are in the collection of the Green Vaults in Dresden. Created by Balthasar Permoser in the 1720’s, several were further embellished by the goldsmith Melchior Dinglinger. They wear feather skirts, which may have been the inspiration for this figures’ layered skirt.


One comparable figure, previously in the S.E. Kennedy Collection, is now in the Lady Lever Collection, Liverpool (acc. nr.LL6131). The Residenzmuseum, Munich, has two similar figures mounted with a clock and dated c.1730.

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Mounted Pagoda Brush Washers

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722)

H: 24,5 cm | W: 44 cm


Private Collection, Paris France


A large pair of brush washers in the shape of fortified gateways with a pagoda roof watch tower, standing on the edge of a pond with a bridge and two boats. They are enamelled on the biscuit in the sancai colour palette. The gate walls are brown with green cantilevering and (one moveable) doors. The sloped three-tiered roof is yellow, brown and green on top – between each level are small square windows. The upturned roof corners have yellow bells. The pond has a rockery base decorated in the splashed ‘Egg & Spinach’ style, the inside is white, glazed with a thin transparent glaze. A shoal of swimming carp are moulded in relief on the bottom. A large and smaller brown boat with yellow sails, stand on green wave pillars; they would actually look as if they were floating when the basin is filled with water. There is a small underwater cave in which an articulated fish swims. Steps lead up to the arched bridge with striped tri-colour railings – which crosses the pond diagonally to the entrance of the gate.


These exquisitely modelled brush washers, are a miniature natural worlds, full of symbolism. A bridge (qiao) symbolizes the uniting of two entities, such as generations. The fish (yu) in the pond stand for abundance and many offspring. The boats (chuan) is a rebus for passing your rank to the next generation; a boat in full sail, also implies the wish that any endeavours will be successful and ‘easy sailing’. So as a whole it could express the wish of easily bringing abundance and success into the house across many generations.


This pair of basins were further embellished in Europe - probably Paris – by adding removable bronze candelabra in the shape of branches on either side. The candle sconces and bobeches, have been decorated with pieces of Egg & Spinach porcelain – taken from another piece of porcelain. These metal fittings which were added in Europe, transformed the original function from brush washer on a scholars desk, to in this case a pair of exotic candelabra. Gilt bronze mounts, also known as 'ormolu', were highly fashionable in France in the 18th century, and were often applied to East Asian porcelain as well as other ceramics.

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Large Sacred Mountain

China, early Kangxi Period (1662-1722)

Height: 53 cm Diameter: 27cm


With Chait Galleries, New York, 2012

Private Collection, USA 2010

Purchased from Vanderven Oriental Art in 1999


An usually large model of a mountain, decorated in enamels on the biscuit in the sancai palette of aubergine brown, yellow and green. The tall craggy peak is inhabited by figures, animals and small buildings, has prunus and pine trees growing up the mountainside. A path with steps curls round the mountain, leading through the open rocks and the pagoda’s. In several buildings there are also small figures present.


One small figure on this mountain, is that of a monkey wearing robes. This alludes to the famous Chinese story by Wu Cheng’en called Journey to the West. It tells the tale of Sun Wukong (The Monkey King),  who goes to the sacred mountain paradise of the Queen Mother of the West. He wrecks her banquet by stealing most of the peaches of immortality. The story incorporates many Daoist elements, which would have appealed to the Chinese scholar-gentleman.

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Large Double Gourd Jars and Covers
China, Kangxi period 1662 – 1722. Circa 1710

Height: 111 cm

Provenance: Private Collection, USA.

Extremely large jars with covers, such as these, were exceedingly difficult to create. Despite their elegant double gourde (hulu) shape, they each weigh a massive 48kg, establishing the skill and knowledge of the Chinese potter in the Kangxi era. Beside the challenge of producing a vase of this the sheer size, the more complex double-gourd form, was even more difficult to fire successfully, than the more typical straight-sided vase. This pair would probably have been part of a larger special commission by the Dutch East India Company (VOC). There are only four other known comparable examples, of this size and decoration, which are in the collection of Augustus the Strong (1670-1733) in Dresden, Germany. This pair are the only examples which, to our knowledge, have come onto the market in the last 30 years.