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Lot 156.  A rare Ming-style copper-red decorated moonflask, Qianlong seal mark and period (1736-1795)Height 17.5 cm, 6⅞ inEstimate: 30,000 - 50,000 GBP. Lot sold 237,500 GBP. Photo Sotheby's

the flattened spherical body supported on a small domed foot and surmounted by a narrow waisted neck with central collar and incurved rim, joined to the shoulders by two strap handles forming right-angles and terminating in moulded ruyi-heads above florette bosses, the slightly domed sides each pencilled with a large medallion of geometric panels, each enclosing different florette and foliate motifs, centred on a lotus spray in a central star-shaped panel, the edges with bands of flower scroll extending from cloud and ruyi head borders around the foot and the base of the neck, with flower scrolls and florette-studded lappets around the neck, the base inscribed with a six-character seal mark in underglaze blue.

Provenance: Collection of Robert C. Bruce (1898-1953).
In the family by descent.

Note:Intricately painted in underglaze-red with a complex geometric design, the form and decoration of this flask closely follows an early Ming blue and white prototype inspired by Middle-Eastern designs, as found on blue and white flask of this design dated to the Yongle period from the collection of Sir Percival David, now in the British Museum, London, and illustrated in Regina Krahl and Jessica Harrison-Hall, Chinese Ceramics: Highlights of the Sir Percival David Collection, London, 2009, pl. 27. Alexander Pope in 'An Early Ming Porcelain in Muslim Style' in Richard Ettinghausen (ed.), Aus der Welt der Islamischen Kunst: Festschrift fuer Ernst Kuehnel, pl. 4B, discusses the Islamic origin of both the form and the decoration.

This particular flask is interesting as it was collected by Robert C. Bruce who owned two other moonflasks of similar size and decoration, one decorated in copper-red and puce enamels, illustrated in Soame Jenyns, Later Chinese Porcelain, London, 1951, pl. LXXXVI, fig. 1b, and sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 28th November 1979, lot 223, the second which was decorated in copper-red alone and is very close to the present flask, sold in Sotheby's London, 12th May 1953, lot 133 and now in the Gulbenkian Museum of Oriental Art and Archaeology, Durham.

A related flask was included in the Min Chiu Society exhibition An Anthology of Chinese Ceramics, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1980, cat. no. 118; another is illustrated in John Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in The Baur Collection, vol. 2, Geneva, 1999, pl. 201; and two further examples were sold in our Hong Kong rooms, the first, 1st November 1999, lot 370; the second from the collection of Sir Quo-Wei Lee, 3rd October 2018, lot 113.

Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, London, 06 Nov 2019