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A magnificent and fine blue and white 'dragon and phoenix' moonflask
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About the item

The well potted body of flattened globular form, finely painted to each side in brilliant tones of cobalt-blue with simulated 'heaping and piling' with a medallion enclosing a ferocious dragon and a magnificent phoenix amidst swirling clouds and flames, the beasts soaring upright and swooping downwards to contest a single 'flaming pearl', the medallion reserved on a ground of composite floral scrollwork extending up the sides, all between a ruyi collar at the shoulder and lotus-lappet and rolling wave bands around the base, the waisted neck encircled by a band of archaistic upright plantain leaves and flanked by a pair of moulded kui dragon handles curling into 'S'-shapes, all below a foaming wave band at the everted lipped rim\nThe dragon and phoenix together represent the Emperor and Empress and have traditionally been a symbol of the power of the Chinese empire. They also symbolize the yin and yang of nature, the two highest principles of Chinese cosmology. The phoenix and dragon motif was especially popular for the decoration of blue and white porcelain throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties, but is rarely found on moonflasks. The only other very similar example recorded, possibly the pair to the present piece, was sold in our London rooms, 13th December 1988, lot 246, and again in our special sale of  'A Collection of Exceptional Imperial Porcelain', 2nd May 2005, lot 510. The present moonflask is most impressive for its large size, excellent condition and clear deep blue glaze.\nA blue and white Qianlong moonflask of related form but painted with a large full-faced five-clawed dragon in a similar circular panel, from the Qing court collection and still in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (III), Shanghai, 2000, pl. 132; another was sold in these rooms, 29th October 2001, lot 543. Compare also a Qianlong flask of the same form and with similar decoration on the neck, but painted with a flower scroll on the body, illustrated in Chinese Porcelain, The S.C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, Part 1, Hong Kong, 1987, pl. 65, together with a Yongzheng flask with the same handles, pl. 54.\nThe form of the present moonflask is an adaptation of much earlier foreign pilgrim bottles made of leather.  During the Tang dynasty they became the inspiration for ceramic replicas. It is thought that they were made to contain wine. Qing blue and white moonflasks were largely derived from the early Ming prototypes, see a Yongle flask painted with a three-clawed dragon, from the Edward T. Chow collection, sold in these rooms, 18th November 1986, lot 34 and illustrated in Sekai toji zenshu, vol. 11, Tokyo, 1955, fig. 74.\n\n   
HK
HK
HK

dimensions

45.2 cm., 17 3/4 in.

provenance

Christie's Hong Kong, 29th/ 30th October 1995, lot 784.


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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