We have a great mystery we hope you can help us solve. We've recently inherited an unusual vase that no one seems to be able to identify. The markings point to the Qing Dynasty but the vase is black with golden bat motive, rather than the typical blue and white. The vase is approximately 14 1/2" tall. We've talked to antique dealers in the Denver area, as well as the Asian Art Department at the Denver Art Museum, we've researched extensively on the Internet, but we haven't gotten answers to the following questions.
We've attached a few pictures of the vase and would be happy to send any further information you might need to help us solve this intriguing mystery.
The vase decoration is called Mirror Black and is quite well known but also very rare if from the Kangxi period where it was first developed probably as an imitation of lacquer. This glaze thereafter went out of fashion to be revived by the end of the Qing dynasty. The gilt decoration is very sensitive and it is quite unusual to find a piece with some or most of its decoration left whatever the date of the vase.
Regarding this vase, I can only venture my own opinion, but from what I can see of the picture I believe this vase to be from around the Guangxu period or slightly later i.e. the first decades of the 20th century.
The reason for this my opinion is that the decoration - specifically the shoulder border - are not the ones used during the Kangxi 1662-1722 period but rather what we would expect from the later Qianlong 1736-1795 or Jiajing 1796-1820 periods - and then the mark would be wrong in any case.
The shape this vase got I do not really recognize from the Kangxi period either and finally, the color of the porcelain paste as we see it at the unglazed portion of the foot rim is not the normal white we would expect from the Kangxi period, but rather what occurs on the early 20th century replicas.
Finally, if you can feel or see a distinct line where the glaze stops short of the unglazed portion of the foot rim - on the inside of the base - we could be certain that the vase is from the period I suggest, since this is a small technical difference between the Kangxi vases and the later replicas.
Mirror Black glazed pieces should really be well known by the people you already have asked and if not, it would be interesting to know what they said.
Since I still could be wrong, I suggest you should ask a professional appraiser at any of the larger auction houses who also could suggest a value depending on their opinion. The vase is nice and quite interesting, and should be worth some money even if it is later then Kangxi.