An extremely rare blue and white double-gourd flask, Seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795)

1

2

3

Lot 3306. An extremely rare blue and white double-gourd flask, Seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795); 18.3 cm, 7 1/4  in. Estimate 12,000,000 — 18,000,000 HKD (1,528,680 - 2,293,020 USD). Lot Sold 14,575,000 HKD (1,877,406 USD). Courtesy Sotheby's.

finely potted and painted in vivid tones of cobalt blue simulating Ming dynasty 'heaping and piling', the truncated lower bulb densely decorated with lotus scrolls, the shoulder draped with a band of pendent ruyi heads and detached floral sprigs, rising to a waisted neck with lappets collared by a raised ring, surmounted by a garlic-mouth painted with lingzhi borne on scrolling foliage and linked by a pair of curved ruyi handles, the base inscribed with a six-character seal mark.

Provenance: Sotheby's Hong Kong, 27th October 1993, lot 189.

Note: This rare flask displays the Qianlong Emperor's penchant for porcelain that was both innovative and artistically challenging, while evoking celebrated designs from China's glorious porcelain tradition. The result is an engaging vessel that is at once innovative and familiar. The double-gourd form and the floral scroll on this piece appear to derive from early Ming moonflasks (bianhu), which had been revived in the Yongzheng reign. This rare truncated version was first developed in the Yongzheng period, and extant examples are known painted in blue and white, copper red and doucaienamels, as well as covered in monochrome glazes.

While Yongzheng mark and period flasks of this form are relatively common, Qianlong versions are rare. Only two pairs of closely related examples appear to have been published: the first sold at Christie's Hong Kong in 1997, and twice in these rooms, 27th April 2003, lot 56 and 10th April 2006, lot 1686, and the second sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 27th October 2003, lot 634, and in these rooms, 8th April 2010, lot 1821.

A rare blue and white double-gourd flask, Seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795)

A rare blue and white double-gourd flask, Seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795); 18.1 cm., 7 1/8 in. Sold for 8,420,000 HKD at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8th April 2010, lot 1821. Courtesy Sotheby's

Cf. my post: Qianlong blue and white porcelains at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8 april 2010

Flasks of this truncated form are also known covered in a tea-dust glaze. A flask from the collection of Sir Joseph Hotung, included in the Min Chiu Society exhibition An Anthology of Chinese Art, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1985, cat. no. 188, was originally sold in these rooms, 21st May 1979, lot 126, and again at Christie's Hong Kong, 30th May 2006, lot 1253; another was sold in these rooms, 11th April 2008, lot 2817; and a pair was sold in our London rooms, 10th December 1985, lot 271. Compare also a celadon-glazed version decorated with dragons, in the Shanghai Museum, illustrated in Lu Minghua, Qingdai Yongzheng – Xuantong guanyao ciqi [Qing dynasty official wares from the Yongzheng to the Xuantong reigns], Shanghai, 2014, pl. 4-13 (right); another from the J.M. Hu collection, sold in our New York rooms, 4th June 1985, lot 37; and a further flask decorated in doucai enamels, illustrated in James Spencer, Selected Chinese Ceramics from Han to Qing Dynasties, Taipei, 1990, pl. 160.    

Qianlong mark and period flasks painted with similar motifs are also known with a rounded lower bulb, such as one from the T.Y. Chao collection, included in the exhibition Ming and Ch'ing Porcelain from the Collection of the T.Y. Chao Family Foundation, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1978, cat. no. 88, and sold twice in these rooms, 12th May 1976, lot 111, and 19th May 1987, lot 274, and again at Christie's Hong Kong, 1st December 2010, lot 3054; and another sold in these rooms, 3rd May 1994, lot 174.     

A fine and very rare Chinese blue and white double-gourd vase

From the T.Y. Chao Family Collection. A fine and very rare blue and white double-gourd vase, Qianlong six-character sealmark and of the period (1735-1796); 9 1/8 in. (23.3 cm.) high. Sold for HKD 24,180,000 (USD 3,126,481) at Christie's Hong Kong, 1st December 2010, lot 3054. © Christie's Images Ltd 2010.

Cf. my post: A fine and very rare blue and white double-gourd vase, Qianlong six-character sealmark and of the period (1735-1796)

For the prototype of this form and design, compare a Yonghzeng mark and period flask painted in underglaze blue and red, 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. 200.

Sotheby's. Fine Imperial Porcelain from a Distinguished Private Collection, Hong Kong, 03 Apr 2019, 10:20 AM