Details & Cataloguing

Important Chinese Art


of flattened globular form supported on a short foot, superbly decorated on each side in varying tones of iron-red with an en face five-clawed dragon writhing sinuously with its scaly body around a 'flaming pearl', the beast rendered with piercing eyes framed by thick furrowed brows, long flowing mane and flaring horns, against a background with evenly spaced lingzhi cloud swirls and above turbulent crashing waves picked out in cobalt-blue, the tubular neck decorated with lingzhi-shaped clouds and flanked by a pair of ruyi-shaped handles extending downwards to the shoulder, the handles reverse-decorated in rich cobalt-blue tones save for the white outlines, the recessed base inscribed in underglaze blue with a six-character seal mark
25.5 cm., 10 in.
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Sotheby's Hong Kong, 27th/28th April 1993, lot 123.
Shimentang collection.
Eskenazi, London, 2012.


Qing Porcelain from a Private Collection, Eskenazi, London, 2012, cat. no. 17.

Описание в каталоге

This magnificent moonflask appears to be unique, and no other dragon flask of exactly the same design in overglaze iron-red and underglaze blue appears to have been published. However, a Qianlong reign-marked flask from the Qing court collection is preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing. Decorated with overglaze rose-pink dragons and underglaze-blue clouds, it is closely related to the current vase although it differs in shape, handles and representation of the clouds, see The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (III), Shanghai, 2000, pl. 232 (fig. 1), and closely related to another pair on display in Chonghuagong ('Palace of Double Brilliance'), Forbidden City; see Ming Qing shinei chenshe [Interior decoration of the Ming and Qing dynasties], Beijing, 2008, fig. 103 (fig. 2). The large front-facing five-clawed dragon is masterly painted with this mysterious and royal creature depicted strong and vivacious. A very similar dragon is depicted in iron-red against blue clouds on the cover of a large round box of the Qianlong period, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, op.cit., pl. 224.

Although the present piece is related to Qianlong reign-marked moonflasks painted in underglaze copper-red with a dragon in the same pose above blue waves, the latter invariably have simpler loop handles, and cruciform blue clouds with horizontal steamers rather than the ascending clouds with ribbon-like tails found on the present flask. Examples include one from the Qing court collection and still in Beijing in the Palace Museum, ibid., pl. 213. Another flask from the Norton collection, sold in our London rooms, 5th November 1963, lot 203, and now in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, was included in the exhibition Chinese Ceramics, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1965, cat. no. 116. Compare also a flask from the Gerald Reitlinger collection, published in Soame Jenyns, Later Chinese Porcelain, London, 1951, pl. XCIV, fig. 1; and another vessel in the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, included in the exhibition The Wonders of the Potter's Palette, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1984, cat. no. 66. Another flask from the famous collection of Dr. T.T. Tsui, is illustrated in The Tsui Museum of Art. Chinese Ceramics IV: Qing Dynasty, Hong Kong, 1995, pl. 84.

More examples of the common type includes a flask of Qianlong mark and period of this form and design in underglaze red and blue, from the British Rail Pension Fund, sold twice in these rooms, 17th November 1975, lot 221, and again 16th May 1989, lot 37, and for the third time at Christie's Hong Kong, 3rd November 1996, lot 776. Another Qianlong flask was sold in these rooms, 8th April 2009, lot 1605 (fig. 3). Compare also a similar flask illustrated in Exhibition of Imperial Porcelain of Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong, S. Marchant & Son, London, 1996, cat. no. 46.

This flask form is inspired by early Ming flasks of similar shape. See a Yongle period (1403-24) flask of floral design, from the former collection of the Ottoman Sultans in Istanbul, fitted with an Ottoman silver-gilt rim mount, illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul, London, 1986, vol. II, pl. 613; and another similarly shaped flask, from the collection of Sir Percival David and now in the British Museum, London, published in Oriental Ceramics. The World's Great Collections, Tokyo, 1982, vol. 6, pl. 28. Compare also two Xuande period (1426-1435) flasks of floral design, exhibited in Geng Baochang, ed., Early Ming Blue-and-white Porcelain in the Palace Museum, Beijing, 2002, vol. 1, pls. 87-88.

Important Chinese Art