Lot 1307
  • 1307

AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE PAIR OF DOUCAI 'FLOWER PETAL' MOULDED MOONFLASKS SEAL MARKS AND PERIOD OF QIANLONG

Estimate
8,000,000 - 12,000,000 HKD
Sold
bidding is closed

Description

each of flattened circular form resting on a splayed foot and rising to a cylindrical neck flanked by a pair of finely carved archaistic scroll handles, each side moulded with a central flowerhead from which six gently lobed panels radiate, the design simulating the petals of flower, decorated overall in brilliant doucai enamels with a composite floral scroll including large leafy chrysanthemum, peony and lotus blooms, the sides similarly decorated, the neck encircled by two large lotus sprays below a band of ruyi heads, the foot with a band of circles, the base inscribed with the six-character mark in underglaze-blue

Provenance

Passed down in the family since 1908 at Castle Blumenstein, Solothurn, Switzerland. 

Catalogue Note

Qianlong doucai vessels are rare and moonflasks of this form and decoration are even rarer. Only one closely related flask appears to be recorded, with the only significant difference in the decoration being the colouration of the central flowerhead and the scroll handles, from the Qing Court collection and still in Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Porcelains in Polychrome and Contrasting Colours, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 247.

The present pair of flasks echo the past in multiple ways. The doucai painting style, with its delicate drawing in fine blue outlines and its colouration in polychrome washes was the archetypical style of decoration in the Chenghua reign (1465-1487), when the colours, however were still limited to a few bright shades. It was only in the 1720's that the wide range of tones, as seen on the present vessel, became available and started being used on Qing ceramics. Furthermore, the technique of doucai decoration is derived from the cloisonne technique of the Ming period. The present pair of flasks in shape and design loosely follow Ming dynasty cloisonne enamel flasks also decorated with a central flowerhead and flower scroll design around it, such as the vessel illustrated in Liu Liang-Yu, Chinese Enamel Ware: Its History, Authentication and Conservation, Taipei, 1978, p. 22 left middle. The central flowerhead design was one of the key motifs used during the Xuande period and can be found on Xuande vessels; see two cloisonne boxes included in Sir Harry Garner, Chinese and Japanese Cloisonne Enamels, London, 1962, pls. 10A and 11A-B, the former from the collection of Sir Percival and Lady David, and the latter box from the Uldry Collection. Compare also a Xuande lotus bowl in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsuan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1998, cat.no. 157, with the interior painted in underglaze-blue with a stylized version of the central flowerhead design.

Relating in their colour scheme, floral motif and rounded form to the present pair of flasks, but differing in proportions and with a garlic-head mouth and double strap handles, is a Qianlong doucai flask, sold in our London rooms, 15th December 1970, lot 104, and possibly the same piece again, sold at Christie's New York, 1st June, 1990, lot 330.

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