Kangxi Pink-Ground Falangcai Bowl - 'High Chance that This bowl will Fetch in An Excess of HK$300m,’ says Nicolas Chow

Sotheby’s Hong Kong unveiled its highlighted selection for the coming spring sales. The focal point of the sale falls to a Rare Pink-Ground Falangcai Bowl from the Kangxi period, Qing dynasty, and it is expected to set a new auction record for the world's most expensive ceramic.

This pink-ground bowl is without question the finest example of its type and the only ever recorded with this design, with only two closely related examples known to have survived. The Value has interviewed Nicolas Chow, Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia. Speaking of the price that the bowl is expected to fetch, he has strong confidence: “There is a high chance that this bowl will fetch in an excess of HK$300m.”


Auction house: Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Sale: Imperial Alchemy The H.M. Knight Falangcai Bowl
Auction time: 2018/4/3|10:30 am
Lot no.: 1
Size: 14.7cm

  • K.K. Chow, Shanghai, 1930/31.
  • Bluett & Sons, London, 1931.
  • Collection of Martin Erdmann, acquired in 1931.
  • Christie’s London, 17th November 1937, lot 73 (part lot).
  • Bluett & Sons, London.
  • Collection of Henry M. Knight (died 1971), The Hague, Holland, acquired in 1938.
  • Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 20th May 1986, lot 123.
  • Collection of the Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo.

Estimate upon request (It is expected to fetch in excess of HK$200m)

Q: How rare is this bowl?

Nicolas: Kangxi Falangcai was in an extremely limited production made in the Imperial workshop in Jingdezhen set up in 1690. Because the kilns were very small and the number of staff working in the enamelling workshop was limited. It was a small production. Falangcai only reached maturity towards the end of the Kangxi period so it was a short-lived production.

Q: What’s so special about the paint?

Nicolas: One of the great introduction in enamelling technique during that period was the use of gold ruby from Europe. That gold ruby was based on colloidal gold. So here on the bowl, you have the gold ruby, which is shaded with white to get the beautiful pink colour. And the gold ruby was used on roses and on the mark on the base, which reads “Kangxi Yuzhi”, made by imperial order for the Kangxi Emperor.

Q: Any similar examples in museums or private hands?

Nicolas: As far as we know, there are only three pieces with such a colour ground. There’s the present bowl; there’s a ‘brother’ in the National Palace Museum in Taiwan; and one bowl that used to be owned by T.T. Tsui, the great Hong Kong collector, which is now in an American collection.

Q: How’s the present bowl different from its ‘brother’ bowl in Taipei?

Nicolas: There is another piece in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, which is also decorated with these panels. Also, the pink ground and the beautiful turquoise colour, imitating the blue sky. But that’s where the comparison of the similarity stops. In terms of the painting style, whereas the one in the Palace Museum in Taiwan, in the choice of flowers, from chrysanthemum to peonies to lotus. The choice of the flowers is very Chinese, and the treatment is traditional.

Kangxi Pink-Ground Falangcai Bowl|Collection of National Palace Museum, Taipei

Kangxi Pink-Ground Falangcai Bowl|Collection of National Palace Museum, Taipei

Nicolas (continues): Here we’ve got daffodils, hibiscus and other flowers, not a choice that’s in keeping with traditional Chinese paintings nor as the style of the depiction. We think there’s an extremely high chance that this bowl would have been devised by Jesuits or at the hand of Jesuits.

Q: What about the condition of this bowl?

Nicolas: It survived last three hundred some years and in perfect condition. There is not an enamel flake. It’s not been on the market for over 30 years. It’s traceable back into the 1930. It has all the hallmarks of a masterpiece and Qing porcelain has been in high demand for the last 20-30 years.

Q: How much do you expect this bowl to fetch?

Nicolas: There is a high chance that this bowl will fetch in an excess of HK$300m, which will be a record for Chinese porcelain.