Cover Lot of Sotheby’s Important Chinese Art: Qianlong Blue and White Moon Flask

Sotheby’s coming Important Chinese Art in London will be led by its cover lot, a rare blue and white ‘lotus’ moon flask. Estimated at £1m - 1.5m, the 48.3cm-tall moon flask has a seal mark of the Qianlong period in underglaze blue on the base. 

The circular body rising from a splayed oval foot to a cylindrical neck flanked by a pair of S-scroll handles, finely painted in varying tones of cobalt blue enhanced by simulated 'heaping and piling'. The production of large vessels required the highest level of technical skill at that time. 

The present moon flask from the Qianlong period (1736-1795) combines two innovations of Yongle period (1403-24) ceramics; its flattened circular form with a raised medallion and the elegant design of a dense foliate lotus scroll. While Yongle moon flasks were potted without a foot and flattened and left unglazed on one side, the Qing craftsman has created an upright vessel that can be appreciated in the round. The reference to these early wares is further highlighted on the present piece in the deliberate ‘heaping and piling’ of the cobalt to imitate their predecessor’s mottled effect.

A pair of Qianlong blue and white moonflasks sold for HK$28,540,000 at Bonhams Hong Kong spring sales in 2017

A pair of moon flasks of similar form and size was auctioned at Bonhams Hong Kong spring sales last year. Estimated at HK$20m-30m, the pair of Qianlong blue and white 'baijixiang' moon flasks once belonged to the collection of William Skinner (1834-1902), silk manufacturer and philanthropist. It sold for HK$28.2m with premium included.

Most moon flasks come in similar forms and sizes, but the decoration varies. Featured on the Bonhams’ moon flasks is a more commonly known decoration of petals enclosing the bajixiang radiating from a central double vajra and the lingzhi scroll repeated around the neck. The one offered at Sotheby’s is each side centred on a large boss with a floral medallion comprising overlapping ruyi-shaped petals, all enclosed within a narrow lappet collar, with a broad band of meandering leafy lotus scrolls.

The present moon flask previously sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong autumn sales in 2003. It was estimated at HK$2m-3m and sold for HK$3.2m with premium included.


A Large, Magnificent and Rare Blue and White 'Lotus' Moonflask Qianlong Seal Mark and Period

Lot no.: 10
Height: 48.3cm
Provenance (consolidated by The Value):
Sotheby's Hong Kong, 26th October 2003, lot 135. (HK$3,198,400)
Estimate: £1,000,000 - 1,500,000

Auction details

Auction house: Sotheby’s London
Sale: Important Chinese Art
Lots offered: 151
2018/5/12 - 13|12pm - 5pm
2018/5/14 - 15|9am - 4:30pm
Auction: 2018/5/16|10:30am