CATALOGUE NUMBERS 0337 & 0338
PAIR OF SANCAI BISCUIT LOTUS- AND DUCK-FORM WATER DROPPERS
KANGXI PERIOD (1661-1722)
Diameter: 3 ⅛ inches
The Chinese Porcelain Company, Ltd., New York, 2000
A pair of water droppers for the English or Continental market. Broadly modeled and decorated with black and sancai enamels on the biscuit, the present pair of duck form water droppers is rarer than the similar examples cited below due to the addition of the small unglazed lotus bud that rests on the back of each figure. Cleverly designed as a functioning artist's utensil, when the leaf-form vessel is filled with water and tilted in the correct manner, the liquid is able to escape through a concealed hole inside the leaf and drops through a small opening behind the neck of the bird. Water droppers in the form of birds can be found as early as the Song dynasty and continued to be made through the eighteenth century. The Kangxi versions, such as this pair, probably served as the prototypes for the more finely modeled and painted famille rose water droppers from the Qianlong period. Eighteenth century European interpretations of the form are also known, modeled at Saffordshire in the form of sauceboats. The combined images of the duck and lotus are frequently depicted in Chinese art because of their complementary symbolic meanings. Mandarin ducks, which always live in pairs and do not changepartners, signify a happy and long-lasting marriage. The lotus (he hua or lianhua) is the sign of perfection and absolute purity, and is also emblematic of marriage as he is a pun for harmony and lian is a pun for continuous. Pictured together, the duck and the lotus would have been recognized as a wishful expression of hope that a marriage would be blessed with many sons.