Lot 3621. A large and rare blue and white lobed 'Magpie' moonflask, seal mark and period of Yongzheng (1723-1735), 49.5 cm, 19 1/2 in. Estimate 500,000 — 800,000 HKD. Lot sold 10,300,000 HKD. Photo: Sotheby's.
robustly potted with a flattened quatrefoil body rising from a splayed foot to a waisted neck of corresponding form, the neck and shoulder flanked by a pair of handles extending from the neck to the narrow sides, each main side of the vessel painted in shaded tones of cobalt blue with a pair of magpies perched on gnarled branches issuing globular fruiting plants and clusters of leaves, the handles and narrow sides densely decorated with undulating lotus scrolls, the rim and neck bordered with bands of classic scroll and upright plantain leaves respectively, all above a pendent ruyi frieze encircling the foot, the base inscribed with a six-character seal mark.
Provenance: Christie's London, 6th November 1995, lot 85.
Note: Flasks of this unusual lobed form are rare and appear to have been an innovation of the Yongzheng reign. The Emperor is celebrated for his refined taste and passion for classic porcelains of the early Ming dynasty, which were often used as models for inspiration. The motif of birds on flowering and fruiting branches was popular in this period and was inspired by after early Ming prototypes, which were in turn painted after the popular bird and flower paintings of the Song dynasty. This attractive scene is confidently painted on the present piece with bold lines and washes of cobalt in a manner appropriate to its large and weighty form.
Another flask of this form in the Osaka City Municipal Museum, Osaka, is illustrated in Schincho Kogei no bi [Qing Ceramics from the Collection of Umezawa Kinenkan], Tokyo, 1993, pl. 70. The only other example that ever appears to have been sold at auction, acquired by Eskenazi Ltd from our London rooms, 5th July 1977, lot 232, is now in the Matsuoka Museum of Art, Tokyo, illustrated in the Museum's Selected Masterpieces of Oriental Ceramics, Tokyo, 1984, pl. 135.
See also an unmarked flask of this form and large size, but painted with a flower scroll, illustrated in Chinese Ceramics in the Idemitsu Collection, Tokyo, 1987, pl. 948; and another sold in our London rooms, 27th November 1973, lot 261.
For the prototype of this design see a Xuande mark and period dish included in Special Exhibition. Chinese Ceramics, Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo, 1994, cat. no. 258.