‘The Eight Immortals’ Elephant Leg Vase


Chongzhen Period 1628–1644

Painted in an exacting hand in vibrant cobalt blue, this vase deftly combines all the tech- niques invented during this period. Layered rockwork gives the scene both depth and monumentality; a bank of swirling clouds forms the ‘back’ of the vase and ‘v’-shaped grass grounds the figures in the scene.

The tall sides of the vase allow the painting to be viewed in the manner of a monumental Ming hanging scroll, whose elongated form may well have inspired the creation of this new shape.

The central figure, enthroned on rock- work, is the Star God of longevity Shou Lao. He is easily recognizable by his tall domed forehead, denoting wisdom, and an elon- gated beard, representing longevity. The deer with their slender, angular legs and jaunty demeanor act as Shou Lao’s vehicle and are the only animals able to find ling-chi, the plant of immortality.

Shou Lao is portrayed here giving an audience to a group of legendary Daoist deities known as ‘The Eight Immortals’, in whose company he is often depicted. All
of them were born as mortals and attained immortality through their good deeds. They are identifiable by the different attributes they carry and each has remarkable powers.

h:42.5cm 163⁄4in


高 :4 2 . 5 公 分 1 6 3⁄4 英 寸