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3 mars 2020

A fine and very rare underglaze-blue and copper-red moonflask, beihu, Qianlong period (1736-1795)


Lot 1895. A fine and very rare underglaze-blue and copper-red moonflask, beihu, Qianlong period (1736-195)17 5/8 in. (44.7 cm.) highEstimate HKD 4,000,000 - HKD 6,000,000. Price realised HKD 7,220,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2010.

The convex rounded sides each finely painted in rich copper-red crushed raspberry tone with a prominent five-clawed dragon in pursuit of a 'flaming pearl', its eyes picked out in cobalt, surrounded by scattered clouds above breaking waves encircling the base, the waisted neck rising to a flared mouth rim, flanked by scroll handles detailed with copper-red flowerheads divided by cobalt trefoil and dot motifs, box.

ProvenanceThe collection of M. Rouvier (1905-1970), France, who bequeathed his substantial collection of Chinese art to his nephew in 1970
Sold at Binoche Renaud Giquello, Paris, 18 November 2009, lot 129.

Note: The present example belongs to a group of two types of copper-red decorated underglaze-blue moonflasks with the design of upright dragons depicted striding above waves. The first, more common group are smaller in size with a slim straight neck and with a full-faced dragon and bear Qianlong sealmarks to the base. The second group of larger moonflaks, to which the current example belongs, appears to be extremely rare and show the dragon's face in profile, have flaring necks and far more pronounced scroll handles. Two examples with additional green and iron-red enamels were sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 20 March 1990, lot 642 and at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 29 October 1991, lot 305, the latter from the collection of Mrs D.C. Minton.

For an example of the first group of moonflasks with full-faced dragons see an example from the Qing Court collection illustrated in Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (III), The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Commerical Press Hong Kong, 2000, pl. 213; one from the Reitlinger collection is illustrated by S. Jenyns, Later Chinese Porcelain, London, 1971, pl. XCIV, fig. 1; one from the Walters collection is illustrated by S. Bushell, Oriental Ceramic Art, fig. 176; a slightly larger version was included in the Hong Kong Museum of Art exhibition Wonders of the Potter's Palette, 1984, and illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 66; and another was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 29 May 2007, lot 1373. 

The combination of copper-red and underglaze cobalt-blue required extreme precision in the firing process and it is not surprising that there is a great deal of variation in the successfulness of the copper-red in extant examples belonging to both groups. The present vase is one of the most successful examples having retained sharpness in the cobalt-blue painting while also achieving a very pleasing rich raspberry-red in the copper-red details. 

Christie'sThe Imperial Sale Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of ArtHong Kong31 May 2010