A large blue and white 'dragon' basin, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period

Lot 3681. A large blue and white 'dragon' basin, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795), 40.4 cm, 15 7/8  in. Estimate 800,000 — 1,000,000 HKD. Lot sold 1,000,000  HKD. Photo: Sotheby's.

robustly potted with deep cylindrical sides rising from a flat base, gently sweeping up to a wide everted rim, the interior boldly painted with a three-clawed dragon in profile pursuing a flaming pearl, its sinuous body detailed with scales, the muscular limbs terminating in sharp claws entangled amongst dense scrolling clouds, all encircled by a continuous band depicting four carp leaping in waves, the tumultuous waters cresting with foams, splashing on pierced rocky mountains issuing lingzhi shrubs below bats in flight, the top of the flat rim bordered by a stylised ruyi band with trefoil florets, similarly decorated to the exterior with four archaistic kui dragons between line borders, the base with an unglazed ring fired to orange.

ProvenanceCollection of John St Clair Elkington, Hampshire, England, purchased from Hay Hill in Mayfair, London during World War II, by repute.
Thence by descent.

NoteA sense of dynamism is captured on this basin through the sinuous dragon that clutches branches of billowing lingzhi, which is further accentuated by the scene of fish swimming amongst the crashing waves. The design represents the journey of the carp and its transformation into a dragon by swimming against the current of the Yellow River and leaping up at the Dragon Gate. The scrolling lingzhi are reminiscent of Qianlong mark and period vases decorated with chilongclambering amongst scrolling stems of lingzhi , such as one in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Porcelain of the National Palace Museum. Blue-and-White Ware of the Ch’ing Dynasty II, Hong Kong, 1968, pl. 10. On the present piece, the chilong have been placed on the exterior of the basin, the plain white ground of which provides a striking contrast with the complex interior.

No other closely related example appears to have been published, although the form is known decorated in various designs; see one of this size painted with a Ming-style design of a central phoenix surrounded by stylised foliate dragons and a lotus scroll rim, sold at Christie’s Amsterdam, 6th October 1983, lot 61; and a smaller version with three foliate dragons, the rim encircled with a lingzhi meander, sold in our London rooms, 9th December 1975, lot 203. A Kangxi mark and period basin of this form and size, decorated with a phoenix surrounded by dense cloud scrolls, with further phoenix around the well, the rim with leafy lotus blooms, was sold in our London rooms, 21st June 1977, lot 7, twice in these rooms, 29th November 1978, lot 222, and 18th May 1982, lot 251, and a fourth time at Christie’s New York, 17th September 2008, lot 455.


A rare blue and white 'Phoenix' basin, Mark and period of Kangxi (1662-1722), 15½ in. (39.3 cm.) diam. Sold for $37,500 at Christie’s New York, 17th September 2008, lot 455. Photo courtesy Sotheby's

Cf. my post: A rare blue and white 'Phoenix' basin, Mark and period of Kangxi

Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, Hong Kong, 03 Oct 2017