A rare finely enamelled doucai 'Qilin' dish, Yongzheng six-character mark within double-circles and of the period (1723-1735)


Lot 2197. A rare finely enamelled doucai 'Qilin' dish, Yongzheng six-character mark within double-circles and of the period (1723-1735); 7 7/8 in. (20 cm.) diam. Estimate HKD 2,000,000 - HKD 3,000,000Price realised HKD 2,180,000. © Christie's Image Ltd 2012

The dish is painted on the interior with a mythical qilin galloping over a storming sea, its back supporting a ribboned book on a saddle cloth, the background with craggy rocks rising out of breaking waves, all enclosed within the broad everted mouth rim decorated with scrolling clouds. The exterior is embellished with further swirling waves divided at each cardinal point with a craggy rock boulder, the edge of mouth rim gilded, box.

Provenance: Sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 13 November 1990, lot 336

LiteratureSotheby's Hong Kong: Twenty Years, Hong Kong, 1993, p. 196, pl. 264 

Exhibited: London, Recent Acquisitions, S. Marchant & Son, 2006, p. 84, no. 45 

NoteThe qilin is a very auspicious animal as it is said to live for a thousand years and to be the noblest of all animals and therefore to represent perfect goodness. It was believed to tread so lightly and carefully that it left no footprints and it damaged no living things with its hooves. The appearance of a qilin was supposed to be the sign of a virtuous ruler and the book on the back of the qilin symbolises knowledge and accomplishment. The combined images allude to a virtuous and learned emperor. A similar dish also with gilded mouth rim is in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Porcelains in Polychrome and Contrasting Colours, The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 1999, p. 238, no. 218. Dishes of this same pattern but without the gilding are published. Compare to an example from the Chang Foundation, illustrated by J. Spencer, Selected Chinese Ceramics from Han to Qing Dynasties, 1990, no. 140; and another from the Edward T. Chow Collection, was sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 19 May 1981, lot 560. 

Christie's. Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Hong Kong, 28 November 2012