A pair of Chinese export porcelain cranes

Qianlong period, 1736-1795 AD, China
清乾隆 1736-1765 中國

Height: 43 cm, 16.9 inches

Each crane stands with one foot resting on a high rockwork mound – one facing left, the other right. The birds are enamelled white on white glazed porcelain (such work being known as ‘bianco-sopra-bianco’) to depict detailed featherwork on the neck and wings. Some of these wing feathers are picked out with fine black veining, others are outlined in black, and the long tail feathers alternate between solid black and white. Black enamel is further used on the long beaks and as a solid line running down the back of each neck – before fanning out across the shoulders. The rockwork is enamelled a chocolate brown – whilst other colours are sparingly used; the legs are mottled green, the eyes a bright yellow, and the crest red.

The crane is native to China and appears often in its domestic art since it symbolizes longevity; it is considered to be one of the two most sacred birds (the other being the phoenix). However, the various models that one finds in 18th century porcelain were made for the export market – appealing to the European taste in decoration (especially exotic eastern items).


The Duke of Westminster.

Similar Examples

Chinesische Kunst Berlin Exhibition catalogue, 1929 – no. 958 illustrates a pair of cranes from the Gutmann Collection, Potsdam.

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