A good blue and white 'Dragon' moonflask, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period

Lot 105. A good blue and white 'Dragon' moonflask, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 34cm., 13 3/8 in. Estimate 10,000 — 15,000 GBP. Lot sold 22,800 GBP. Photo: Sotheby's 2007

of compressed globular form, painted to either side in rich cobalt-blue tones with a central dragon medallion encircled by a leafy composite floral scroll, the tall waisted neck with Buddhist emblems and flanked by a pair of dragon handles.

ProvenancePrivate collection, Leipzig, purchased in 1991 (by repute). 

NoteBlue and white Qianlong moonflasks with this unusual design combination of flower scrolls and dragon medallions are rare, and more common are flasks painted with a floral scroll only, with a large, full-faced five-clawed dragon or with the 'dragon and phoenix' design. For example see a flask from the Qing Court collection and still in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed red (III), Shanghai, 2000, pl. 132; and one painted with a flower scroll included in Chinese Porcelain. The S.C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, Part 1, Hong Kong, 1987, pl. 65.

Compare also a slightly smaller flask painted with foliate scroll around the body, sold in our New York rooms, 30th May 1990, lot 171; and another sold in these rooms, 7th June 1994, lot 356.

The form of the present flask is an adaptation of much earlier foreign pilgrim bottles made of leather. Not long before the Tang dynasty they became the inspiration for ceramic replicas. It is thought that they were made to contain wine. Qing blue and white moonflasks were largely derived from early Ming prototypes, see a Yongle flask painted with a peony scroll in the British Museum, London, from the collection of Walter Sedgwick, illustrated in Jessica Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics, London, 2001, pl. 4:17; and one decorated with a formal lotus scroll from the Qing emperors' summer resort Bishu Shanzhuang at Chengde in Hebei province, published in Zhongguo taoci quanji, vol. 12, Shanghai, 2000, pl. 17.

Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, London, 16 May 2007