Previously sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 16 May 1977, lot 140, 3 May 1994, lot 144; and again, 27 April 1999, lot 430.
Porcelain decorated with the exquisite, subtle doucai enamels in the Chenghua period, were highly treasured both by the Ming and Qing courts. Few pieces rival the exacting quality of Chenghua 'chicken' cups which are finely potted and meticulously painted in soft enamels with a delightfully free and spontaneous scene of chickens tending to their chicks. While the theme of chickens is rarely used on porcelain decoration, a number of such cups were produced during the late Ming and Qing dynasties, in an attempt to recreate the fine and rare qualities of the famous prototype. In such cases, an apocryphal Chenghua mark was sometimes used.
For the early Qing dynasty examples, there appear to be two notable painting styles in the rendition of the cockerel's tails. The first, such as in the present example, is a traditional, naturalistic portrayal which is closer to the Ming prototype and the other is an expressionistic fantail-like spread of the tail feathers ssen on the cup sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 29 April 2002, lot 562.
Compare the present lot with other Yongzheng chicken cups, a pair exhibited at the Min Chiu Society Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibition, Selected Treasures of Chinese Art, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 1990, Catalogue, no. 165; and one from the Sedgwick Collection, included in the O. C. S. Exhibition of the Arts of the Ch'ing Dynasty, London, 1964, Catalogue, no. 194. Cf. also the three cups in the Edward T. Chow Collection, with Chenghua, Kangxi and Yongzheng marks, all illustrated together by M. Beurdeley, La Ceramique Chinoise, col. pls. 71 and 72. The Qing cups here follow the original very closely in the style of painting and in the position of the birds.
Most Chenghua chicken cups are in museum collections, eight in the National Palace Museum, Taibei, illustrated in various publications of the museum; one in the Percival David Foundation, included in the Foundation's exhibition Flawless Porcelains: Imperial Ceramics from the Reign of the Chenghua Emperor, 1995, Catalogue, no. 22; one in the Victoria and Albert Museum, illustrated by J. Ayers, Far Eastern Ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum, col. pl. 50; one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, illustrated by S. Valenstein, A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, col. pl. 24; and another originally in the Baur Collection, illustrated by J. Ayers, he Baur Collection, Geneva. Chinese Ceramics, vol. II, 1969, pl. A141.