A rare documentary blue and white alms bowl. Dated Wanli 32nd year, corresponding to AD1605 and of the period. Photo Bonhams

The shallow body incurling towards the upper rim, the glaze only extending partially inside the bowl, the exterior painted in a wide band with two large winged dragons flying above breaking waves in mutual pursuit below a thin continuous inscription, wood stand. 16cm (6¼in) wide (2). Estimate: £20,000 - 30,000, CNY 200,000 - 300,000, HK$ 240,000 - 360,000

Provenance: The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1971, no.126
F.Gordon Morrill, sold in New York
S.Marchant and Son, London
The Harriet Szechenyi Collection, Switzerland

Exhibited: S.Marchant and Son, Ming Blue and White:
Jiajing-Chongzhen including dated examples
, November 2004, no.29

The inscription has been translated: made in the Ming Dynasty Wanli period thirty-second year by/or ordered by Wei Mang in the summer month made to use for the auspicious anniversary, forever wealth, luck, and life, have a house full of gold and jade and extremely good luck with everything going well.

These unusual types of documentary alms bowls are known in other collections: see for example one illustrated by S.Riddell, Dated Chinese Antiquities 600-1650, London, 1979, no.65, p.90 for the example dated 1520 in the City Museum and Art Gallery, Hong Kong. A later example dated 1621, formerly in the collection of R.F.A.Riesco, Croyden, is illustrated by Sir Harry Garner, Oriental Blue and White, London, 1954, no.59a.

Bonhams. Fine Chinese Art, 10 Nov 2011, New Bond Street  www.bonhams.com