This small, exceptionally thinly potted cup is from one of the imperial sets of wine cups depicting the Flowers of the Twelve Months. A complete set of twelve month cups in the collection of the Percival David Foundation is illustrated by R. Scott in Elegant Form and Harmonious Decoration - Four Dynasties of Jingdezhen Porcelain, Percival David Foundation, London/Singapore, 1992, p.113, no. 122.
Each of these cups was decorated in a particularly finely painted version of the wucai palette, with rocks and clumps of grass painted in a soft underglaze blue, while the majority of the decoration is rendered in overglaze famille verte enamels.
The status of these cups can perhaps be judged by the fact that at the end of the inscription, which accompanies the flower painting on each cup, there is an underglaze blue seal character which reads: shang. This character may be translated as 'enjoy', for example to enjoy or appreciate the flowers. However, in this context it is more probable that it should be translated as 'reward', with the implication of being bestowed by a superior (in this case the emperor) as a reward for meritorious service.
The design of Rosa Chinensis is usually painted for the cup for the seventh month of the lunar year, although the exact order is a subject of some debate.
The poetic inscription written on the other side of the cup in underglaze blue reads:
bu sui qian zhong jin
du fang yi nian hong
(The rose does not follow the masses and die away,
but alone sets forth its crimson all year round)
See other cups of the set sold in our New York Rooms, 17 September 2008, lot 252; and in our London Rooms, 4 November 2008, lots 214 and 215