A rare anhua 'Phoenix' bowl. Ming Dynasty, Jiajing period. Photo Sotheby's

finely potted with steeply rounded sides and everted rim springing from a gently tapering foot, masterfully decorated on the interior with a lingzhi-shaped cloud in the centre, surrounded by two phoenix with outstretched wings and long curling tails rendered in anhua technique, the exterior left plain, covered overall with a smooth creamy white glaze; 21.2 cm., 8 3/8 in. Estimate 2,500,000-3,000,000 HKD - Unsold

NOTE: By the Jiajing period the ceremonial use of monochrome vessels was well established and high quality white wares produced at the Imperial kilns in Jingdezhen were employed for rituals such as ancestral worship. White is traditionally the colour of mourning in China and this tradition of using fine white glazed wares was instigated by the Yongle emperor (1403-1424) who held mourning ceremonies for the deceased Hongwu emperor in an attempt to legitimise his reign, for which white vessels were produced.

A closely related bowl from the Hellner collection is illustrated in L. Reidemeister, Ming Porzellane in Swedischen Sammlungen , Berlin, 1935, pl. 34b; and another was sold in these rooms, 15th November 1988, lot 154. A larger bowl of this form and decoration was sold in these rooms, 29th November 1977, lot 61; and another was sold at Christie's London, 6th October 1975, lot 161.

For the inspiration of this bowl, see one attributed to the Yongle period, similarly decorated with a pair of phoenix in the anhua technique, illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection , vol. 2, London, 1994, pl. 648; and another published in John Ayers, The Baur Collection, Geneva , Geneva, 1969, pl. A142.

Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art. Hong Kong. 05 Oct 2011 www.sothebys.com