Lot 2167. A rare Ming-style blue and white moonflask, Qianlong seal mark in underglaze blue and of the period (1736-1795); 14 3/8 in. (36.5 cm.) high. Estimate USD 20,000 - USD 30,000. Price Realized USD 93,750. © Christie's Images Ltd 2014.
The vase has one convex and one flat side, and is supported on a rectangular foot. The convex face has a central domed medallion decorated with a trigram encircled by two dragons within key-fret and ruyi-head borders, surrounded by eight lotus borne on conjoined, leafy scroll within an outer flower scroll border repeated on the narrow sides in a larger format where it is interrupted by the blue loop and stationary ring handles. The reverse is similarly decorated, except for a differing trigram, and the cylindrical neck is decorated with bands of upright leaf tips and classic scroll flanked by a pair of blue scroll handles. The cobalt blue is of a vibrant tone with simulated 'heaping and piling'. The neck and handles are replaced.
Note: Qianlong-marked flasks of this form are extremely rare. Compare the similar vase from the Robert Chang Collection sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 28 November 2006, lot 1319. See, also, another example sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 3 December 2008, lot 2622.
From the Robert Chang Collection. A fine and magnificent Ming-style blue and white moonflask, Qianlong six-character sealmark and of the period (1736-1795); 14 3/8 in. (36.5 cm.) high. Estimate HKD 6,500,000 - HKD 7,500,000. Price Realized HKD 8,520,000 at Christie's Hong Kong, 28 November 2006, lot 1319. © Christie's Images Ltd 2006.
The form of this moonflask was clearly inspired by Yongle blue and white examples, which themselves were based on thirteenth-century Islamic brass prototypes. Examples of the early fifteenth-century porcelain flask include four in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 34 - Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red (I), Hong Kong, 2000, nos. 34-37; one in the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, illustrated in Blue-and-White Wares of the Ming Dynasty (I), Hong Kong, 1963, pl. 3; one in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., illustrated in Oriental Ceramics, The World's Great Collections, Japan, 1981, pl. 94; and another sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 1 November 1999, lot 311.
Compare the Ming and Qing versions of the flask with the Middle Eastern canteen made of brass inlaid with silver, also in the Freer Gallery of Art, illustrated and discussed by John Alexander Pope, 'An Early Ming Porcelain in Muslim Style', Aus der Welt der Islamischen Kunst, Festchrift fur Ernst Kuhnel, (ed. Richard Ettinghausen), Berlin, 1959, pp. 357-75, pls. 1B and 2B, where the porcelain and metal flasks from the Freer Gallery are compared. Both prototypes have a flat back and a slightly domed front, although the Yongle examples are not decorated or glazed on the flat side, while the Islamic flask is inlaid on both sides. The loops on the eighteenth-century flask are taken from both prototypes, as the porcelain ones have only a pair on the shoulders, and the metalware example has only the S-shaped handles flanking the neck. The rectangular foot on the Qianlong flask is a Qing dynasty adaptation, as neither of the earlier flasks were designed to stand upright for display purposes. As a functional object, the metal canteen was probably suspended from a horse's saddle, with the flat side designed to lie flat on the saddle or on a piece of luggage.
The trigrams on the central medallion belong to the Eight Trigrams or ba gua, traditional symbols of divination which were recorded in the Yi Jing, Book of Changes. In this instance, the trigrams Qian and Kun, on opposite sides of the flask, symbolize 'Heaven' and 'Earth', respectively, representing imperial power.
Christie's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, New York, 20 - 21 March 2014