Moon flasks are highly sought after among porcelain collectors because they require a high level of skill to make, representing the zenith of craftsmanship. Though moon flasks are generally big, it’s unusual to see one as large as the one to be offered at Christie’s London this November. The moon flask is almost 54 cm tall, one of the largest ever seen at Christie’s. It is going to lead the Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art sale, carrying an estimate of £1.2m-1.5m.
The blue and white moon flask is shaped in a flattened circular body with a network of stylised floral scrolls. This type of vessel is given the name “moon” flask because of the shape resembling the full moon. Examples that we see in the market are usually blue and white. Still, moon flasks were made in a limited quantity due to the difficulty in producing them. Moon flasks of this size are difficult to fire because of the weight. It would have been made in different sections, put together and then fired. Many of them collapsed in on themselves in the kiln, or fell over because they were so top-heavy.
On the base of the flask is a Yongzheng six-character seal mark in underglaze blue and of the period (1725-1735). The Yongzheng Emperor was, like his father, a keen antiquarian and a significant number of the art items made for his court were made in antique style. The blue and white porcelains of the early 15th century were particularly admired, and so their style was often adopted for imperial Yongzheng wares.
The shape of this flatten circular flask with handles was inspired either by metalwork or glass of the Islamic era. During the Ming dynasty, many of these metalwork shapes were reproduced in porcelain and adapted to Chinese tastes. Unlike Chinese moon flasks, however, which serve as decorative objects, their Persian prototypes were practical and used for carrying liquids.
The flask is decorated with a floral design and each flower has a symbolic meaning, representing a season or a personal quality of the Yongzheng Emperor. The mixed floral scroll seen on the current flask was also inspired by early 15th-century imperial porcelains but was more frequently applied to meiping vases, large bulbous flasks or open wares.
Marco Almeida, International Senior Specialist in Chinese ceramics at Christie’s
So how should this large moon flask be displayed? ‘As we’ve seen from photographs of the Forbidden Palace in Beijing, there were large cabinets with different-sized compartments,’ Christie’s specialist Marco Almeida advised. ‘Each compartment would have held an object, and a moon flask like this one would have sat in the central position surrounded by smaller pieces from the same period.’
A Rare Large Ming-style Blue and White Moonflask, Bianhu
Yongzheng Six-character Seal Mark in Underglaze Blue and of the Period (1725-1735)
Lot no.: 171
Acquired in Asia by the grandfather of the current owner between 1920-1943.
Estimate: £1,200,000 - 1,500,000
Auction house: Christie’s London
Sale: Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art
2 November 2018｜10am - 4:30pm
3 November 2018｜12pm - 5pm
4 November 2018｜12pm - 8pm
5 November 2018｜9am - 4:30pm
6 November 2018｜10:30am (lot 1-153)
6 November 2018｜2pm (lot 154-322)