Lot 3636. A fine blue and white 'Fish' bowl, Seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795); 18.2 cm, 7 1/8 in. Estimate 1,000,000 — 1,500,000 HKD. Lot sold 1,250,000 HKD (161,013 USD). Courtesy Sotheby's.
of conical form, the steeply flaring sides supported on a splayed foot, painted to the interior with a central medallion enclosing three detached sprays of swaying waterweeds, encircled by four fish swimming in various poses, the exterior with tumultuous waves cresting and splashing with foams, below double lines encircling the brown-dressed rim, the base inscribed with a six-character seal mark.
Exhibition of Ancient Chinese Ceramics from the Collection of the Kau Chi Society of Chinese Art, Hong Kong, National Museum of History, Taipei, 1982, cat. no. 117.
Note: This bowl is remarkable for its lively depiction of fish and crushing waves against an undecorated ground. The fish are skilfully rendered swimming and twisting their bodies with fine pencilled lines and broad washes of cobalt blue. Depictions of four fish among waterweeds are known on blue and white porcelain from as early as the Yuan dynasty and on these early wares the fish are sometimes identified as the black carp (qing yu), the silver carp (bai yu), the common carp (li yu) and the Chinese perch (gui yu); their names, qing bai li gui, are homophonous with the words for purity, morality and nobility, making this identification particularly appropriate.
Bowls of this design are unusual although a closely related example in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is illustrated in Blue and White Ware of the Ch’ing Dynasty, Hong Kong, 1968, vol. II, pl. 27; and another from the collection of Mrs P. Pounce, was sold in our London rooms, 29th March 1977, lot 264. Compare also a pair of cups with Qianlong marks and of the period, painted with a similar motif of four fish among waterweeds, sold in these rooms, 30th April 1991, lot 75.