An imperial enamel 'Floral medallion' seal paste box and cover, Qianlong mark and of the period (1736-1795)

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Lot 123. An Imperial enamel 'Floral medallion' seal paste box and cover, Qianlong mark and of the period (1736-1795). 2in (5cm) wide. Estimate: 10,000-15,000 USDSold for US$ 60,000 (€ 51,330). © Bonhams 2001-2018

Of octalobed form, all surfaces covered in white enamel except for the raised gilded edges and lip, the top of the gently-domed cover and sides of the box finely painted with a profusion of different floral medallions, irregularly spaced with some overlapping, the sides of the cover decorated with floral scrolls, the interior painted with a still life of lotus root, finger citron, melon, rose and berries with two fluttering butterflies, all enclosed within a border of five linked bats, the base of the box inscribed in blue enamel with the four-character reign mark within a double-square.

Note: The design of scattered varied floral medallions seen on the present example is known in Chinese as piqiu hua, literally meaning ball flowers. This design was clearly admired in the Imperial Court from the Yongzheng to the Qianlong periods, as seen on similarly decorated examples in the Qing Court Collections now surviving in the Palace Museum, Beijing and the National Palace Museum, Taipei. This design was used on objects made in painted enamel, porcelain and cloisonné enamel. For painted enamel examples with Qianlong marks see The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Metal-Bodied Enamel Ware, Hong Kong, 2002, pls.199 and 213; and Enamel Ware in the Ming and Ch'ing Dynasties, Taipei, 1999, pls.139 and 140.

An almost identical example to the present lot, but with the floral medallions arranged slightly differently, was sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 7 April 2015, lot 3612. A circular seal paste box and cover with similar decoration from the Andrew L. and Amanda Adams Love collection was sold at Christie's, New York, 20 September 2005, lot 122; and a twelve-lobed box with the same decoration was sold in our London rooms, 17 May 2012, lot 150.

A rare Imperial Canton enamel 'Ball flower' box and cover, mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795)

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A rare Imperial Canton enamel 'Ball flower' box and cover, mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795); 5 cm., 2 in. Sold for 625,000 HKD at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 7 April 2015, lot 3612. Courtesy Sotheby's.

of lobed form and octafoil section, the shallow straight sides delightfully enamelled with stylised multi-coloured 'ball flowers' scattered against a white ground, some freely floating, others overlapping in small clusters, the white base inscribed in blue enamel with a four-character reign mark within a double-square, the slightly convex cover similarly enamelled with 'flower-balls', each 'lobe' of the sides with a detached floral scroll, the interior with a medallion enclosing a scene of two butterflies fluttering over fruiting and flowering sprigs, including finger citrons, a gourd and hibicus blossoms, all picked out in shaded tones of pink, blue, purple, green and yellow.

NoteThis charming box is notable for its painted motif of overlapping ball flowers, which appears to derive from Japanese heraldic symbols. Compare a similarly painted Qianlong mark and period box and cover of globular form, from the Love collection, sold at Christie’s New York, 20th September 2005, lot 122. Ball flowers are also painted on three vases and three teapots in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in the Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum. Enamels, vol. 5, Painted Enamels in the Qing Dynasty, pls. 57-59 and 112-114.

A fine famille rose Canton enamel twelve-lobed box and cover Qianlong four-character mark and of the period

A fine famille rose Canton enamel twelve-lobed box and cover Qianlong four-character mark and of the period. Sold for £ 12,500 (€ 14,009) at Bonhams London, 17 May 2012, lot 150© Bonhams.

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The box and cover is superbly decorated with rosettes, also known as the 'posy' design. This design was clearly admired in the Imperial Court from the Yongzheng to the Qianlong period, as exemplified by the surviving similarly-decorated vessels in the Qing Court Collections now in the Palace Museum, Beijing and the National Palace Museum, Taipei, made in painted enamel, porcelain and cloisonné enamel. For painted enamel examples bearing the Qianlong mark and of the period, see a loop-handled painted enamel teapot from the Qing Court Collection, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Metal-bodied Enamel Ware, Hong Kong, 2002, pl.199; and a loop-handled painted enamel yu vessel and a painted enamel gu vase, from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Enamel Ware in the Ming and Ch'ing Dynasties, Taipei, pls.139 and 140. 

Note: Compare a related painted enamel 'posy' box and cover, Qianlong mark and of the period, sold at Christie's New York, on 20 September 2005, lot 122.

Bonhams. CHINESE WORKS OF ART AND PAINTINGS, 10 Sep 2018, NEW YORK