In their decoration these two impressive Qianlong mark and period moon flasks closely follow the motif found on the interior of an early fifteenth century basin, from the Avery Brundage collection in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, with eight petal panels radiating from a double vajra
with each panel containing one of the eight auspicious Buddhist emblems (bajixiang
). The Brundage basin was included in the exhibition Blue and White,
University of Chicago, Chicago, 1985, cat. no. 28, where John Carswell mentions fourteenth century designs with auspicious objects in radiating lotus panels of varying numbers.
Interestingly, on early Ming dynasty wares, such as the covered bowl from the T.Y. Chao collection and sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 19th
May 1987, lot 231, the fish emblem follows the lotus emblem while the knot emblem follows the vase emblem in the order of the bajixiang
on Qing period wares, such as the present two flasks, the artist has reversed the order of the fish and the vase emblems, showing a degree of flexibility the Qing artisan enjoyed when copying earlier designs. The shape of these flasks is also based on Ming period vessels with a decorated convex side and a smooth flat unglazed back such as the piece, formerly sold in these rooms, 29th
October 1957, lot 166, and now in the Freer Art Gallery, Washington D.C., illustrated in Oriental Ceramics. The World’s Great Collections,
vol. 9, Tokyo, 1981, pl. 94. Fifteenth century blue and white porcelain flasks, in turn, took their form from earlier, 13th
century, Mesopotamian bronze cooling vessels, such as the example from the Eumorfopoulos collection, sold in these rooms, 5th
June 1940, lot 72, and now also in the Freer Art Gallery. Interestingly, early metal flasks were also copied and made in silver during the Qianlong period; see a silver moon flask sold in these rooms, 11th
June 1996, lot 139.
Similar Qianlong blue and white moon flasks may be found in a number of museums and private collections. For example, see one included in the Illustrated Catalogue of Ch’ing Dynasty Porcelain in the National Palace Museum, vol. II, Tokyo, 1981, cat. no. 5; two published in Chinese Ceramics in the Idemitsu Collection, Tokyo, 1987, pls. 949 and 950, the latter unmarked ; one in the Nanjing Museum illustrated in Zhongguo lidai Jingdezhen ciqi, Beijing, 1998, p. 169; another, from the collection of Edward T. Chow, was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 19th May 1981, lot 544; a further piece, from the collections of C.G. Sloan and Greenwald, was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 1st December 2010, lot 2826; and one sold three times at auction, last in our Hong Kong rooms, 8th April 2011, lot 3123.