A 'Famille-Rose' 'wasps and flowers' bowl. Xianfeng mark and period

the generously wide bowl curving to a slightly everted gilt lip, the exterior exquisitely painted with three registers of animated wasps in varying positions, interspersed with a myriad of narcissus, prunus, orchid and lotus sprays, alongside grape vines, bamboo and pine needles, all picked out in gray, green, yellow, blue, pink and aubergine enamels, the interior glazed white, supported on a gently tapered foot - diameter 9 in., 22.9 cm - Estimate: 5,000—7,000 USD - Lot sold: 4,688 USD

NOTE : While vessels painted with the design of colorful butterflies are well known, pieces decorated with the motif of wasps and flowers are rare. The naturalistic depiction of the insects and the flowers is especially noteworthy, indicating that the artist may have been inspired by reference materials such as the Bencao Gangmu (Pandects of Natural History) by Li Shizhen. The Chinese word for wasp (feng) is a pun for the words 'harvest' and 'confer', hence vessels with this design were possibly made to hold offerings during the Harvest Festival.

See a slightly later bowl of similar shape painted with butterflies arranged in a manner closely related to the design found on this piece, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 27th October 1992, lot 141. Compare also a round box and cover decorated with sprays of flowers, Tongzhi mark and period, illustrated in Porcelains with Cloisonné Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration: The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 30.

Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art including Chinese and Japanese Art from The Collection of Frieda and Milton Rosenthal. 16 Sep 08. www.sotheby's.com