The diminutive pear-shaped body rising to a waisted neck gently rounded inwards at the rim, delicately potted in the Imperial kilns in Jingdezhen out of immaculate white kaolin clay and applied with a milky-white glaze superbly fired to a smooth silky finish; exquisitely enamelled in the Imperial Palace workshops in Beijing in falangcai enamels in subtly shaded, at times blended, washes and meticulous detail with a pair of golden pheasants perched on a knotty trunk, the long-tailed male with iron-red breast, pale yellow head with darker neck, his wing feathers in tones of green detailed in blue and aubergine with long trailing feathers also in iron-red and sepia, beside the female with feathers finely picked out in tones of shaded sepia, the thick, knotty trunk set with spots of greenish moss and extending to angled branches issuing a myriad prunus buds and blooms and their leaves, intermingled with luscious rose flowers and buds borne on thorny leafy stems in shades of green sprouting from craggy rocks picked out in pale iron-red and grey wash, the whole forming a continuous scene complimented on the shoulder with a couplet and three seals, the slightly flared foot with a black-outlined blue enamel angular scroll on a yellow ground, the neck flanked by foliate scroll handles picked out in green, yellow, pink and blue enamels reserved on a pale green washed ground paling in the centre and with dotted ‘C?scrolls at the rim, below a yellow, black-outlined band beneath the lip and a conjoined puce enamel foliate scroll below, the countersunk base with the four-character mark Qianlong nianzhi written within a double-square in a characteristically pale, slightly misfired greyish-blue enamel\nThe inscription reads and may be translated as:\nXinzhi han qianlu, xiaoe san qinghong.\n'New branches sprout young green,\nnew calyses spread light red.'\nThe simulated seals read: jiali (beautiful) and cuipu \nLike most pieces painted in the enameling workshop in the Zaobanchu (Imperial Palace Workshop) in Beijing, this vase is unique although a vase of similar size and shape, also with a Qianlong reign mark written in standard script in blue enamel, but painted with bats and gourds symbolizing happiness and longevity, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is included in the Special Exhibition of Ch'ing Dynasty Enamelled Porcelains of the Imperial Ateliers, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1992, cat.no. 136.\nThe design combination of a pair of golden pheasants perched on a rock between plants, however, was also painted together with an inscription and seals, on a vase from the Charles Russell Collection, illustrated in R.L. Hobson, Chinese Ceramics in Private Collections, London, 1931, col. pl. 28, and sold in our London rooms, 2nd June 1971, lot 263. This design can also be found on a vase in the Musee Guimet included in Soame Jenyns, Later Chinese Porcelain, London, 1951, pl. LXXVIII; and on a vase in the Tianjin Museum published in Tianjin Shi Yishu Bowuguan cang ji, Hong Kong, 1993, pls. 169-170. See also a vase painted with a pair of golden pheasants, one balancing on one slender yellow leg while the other perched on a knotty trunk, sold in these rooms, 5th November 1997, lot 1353.\nWith its strikingly coloured plumage, the golden pheasant was a popular subject of flower-and-bird painting since the Song dynasty; see, for example, a painting by Wang Yuan (act. 1280-1350) in the Shanxi Museum, illustrated in an article on the Museum's collections in Orientations, December 1994, p. 40, fig. 29. The Italian Jesuit painter, Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), adopted this subject in the early Qing dynasty when he was installed as a court painter under the Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong emperors. His painting of a pair of golden pheasants perched on a rock between flowering shrubs, entitled Glorious Spring, which is preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is illustrated in\nCecile et Michel Beurdeley, Castiglione, Peintre Jesuite a la Cour de Chine, Fribourg, 1971, pl. 130.