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Lot 21. A very fine and rare pair of iron-red and gilt-decorated 'phoenix' bowls, Marks and period of Kangxi (1662-1722); 11.1 cm. Lot sold: 693,000 HKD (Estimate: 400,000 - 600,000). © Sotheby's 2021

each delicately potted with deep rounded sides rising from a straight foot to a gently everted rim, the exterior decorated in iron-red enamel and gilt with a male phoenix with its long tail stretched behind, in pursuit of a female phoenix with shorter ribboned tail, amidst stylised cloud scrolls, inscribed to the base with a six-character mark in underglaze blue.

ProvenanceSotheby's Hong Kong, 8th-9th November 1982, lot 182.
Sotheby's Hong Kong, 27th April 2003, lot 209.

NoteBowls of the same design and decoration technique are rarely seen at auction, although a few examples can be found in museums. See a similar bowl in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Miscellaneous Enamelled Porcelains Plain Tricoloured Porcelains, Shanghai, 2009, pl. 14; and another, also from the Palace Museum collection but transferred to Sichuan Museum in 1957, and now displayed in the Porcelain Room of the New Wing

Iron-red and gilt decoration was very popular in the Kangxi period and widely applied on porcelain of various sizes and shapes. Besides small bowls such as the present pair, examples of larger size can be cited, including a bottle vase of dragon design from the Palace Museum, Beijing (accession no. Gu-146889), and a floral decorated ewer in the collection of the Topkapi Saray Museum, illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul, vol. 3, London, 1986, col. pl. 2919.

Sotheby's. The Three Emperors: Imperial Porcelain of the Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong reigns from the Yidetang Collection, Hong Kong, 12 October 2021