Lot 157. A superb and rare finely carved celadon-glazed moon flask, Yongzheng seal mark and period (1723-1735). Height 11 1/2 in., 29.2 cm. Estimate 1,500,000 — 2,500,000 USD. Lot sold 2,045,000 USD. Photo: Sotheby's
well potted with gently rounded sides, the flattened circular body rising from an unglazed footrim to a cylindrical neck flanked by a pair of scrolling ruyihandles, finely carved on each side with five luxuriant lotus blooms amid scrolling feathery leaves, the neck encircled with upright leaf lappets above a scrolling band, the rich bluish-green glaze thinning on the raised surfaces to enhance the decoration, the countersunk base with a seal mark in underglaze blue.
Provenance: Collection of Sir Frederick Bruce, G.C.B., British Ambassador to China from 1860 to 1865.
Collection of Robert C. Bruce.
Sotheby’s London, 12th May 1953, lot 96.
Collection of Raymond F.A. Riesco.
Sotheby’s London, 11th December 1984, lot 437.
Christie’s New York, 5th June 1986, lot 353.
Note: A very similar moon flask in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, was included in the Museum’s exhibition Qing Kang Yong Qian ming ci tezhan/Catalog of the Special Exhibition of K’ang-hsi, Yung-cheng and Ch’ien-lung Porcelain Ware from the Ch’ing Dynasty in the National Museum Palace (sic), Taipei, 1986, cat. no. 61; another identical piece, but without reign mark, in the collection of Qing porcelains of the Seikadō Bunko Art Museum, Tokyo, was included in the Museum’s exhibition Seikadō zō Shinchō tōji. Keitokuchin kanyō no bi [Qing dynasty porcelain collected in the Seikadō. Beauty of Jingdezhen imperial kilns], Tokyo, 2006, cat. no. 106; a piece with ormolu mounts around neck and sides was sold in our London rooms 15th June 1982, lot 356; others in our Hong Kong rooms, 19th November 1986, lot 241; and 8th October 2006, lot 1005.
This moon-flask shape with curling handles was also used for other designs, all being most refined examples; compare the famous moon flask in the Sir Percival David Collection in the British Museum, London, which is painted with two different bird-and-flower motifs in colors of the famille-rose, illustrated in Regina Krahl and Jessica Harrison-Hall, Chinese Ceramics. Highlights from the Sir Percival David Collection, London, 2009, pl. 44; or a blue-and-white example with a Ming-style composite flower scroll in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in Geng Baochang, ed., Gugong Bowuyuan cang Qingdai yuyao ciqi[Qing porcelains from the Imperial kilns preserved in the Palace Museum], Beijing, 2005, vol. I, book 2, pl. 41.
This vessel vaunts an illustrious provenance. It is first known from the collection formed between 1860-1864 by Sir Frederick Bruce, G.C.B. Bruce accompanied his brother James Bruce, eighth Earl of Elgin as secretary to the Expedition to China which culminated in the capture of Peking in 1860, and remained in China as ambassador from 1860-1865. After 1953, the moon flask formed part of the collection of the British businessman and connoisseur, Raymond F. A. Riesco (1877-1964). Riesco began collecting Chinese ceramics from 1935 and served on the Council of the Oriental Ceramic Society, London from 1951 to 1961, during which he loaned pieces from his collection to various of the exhibitions held by the Society.
Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, New York, 16 sept. 2014