This form was taken from a European glass, stoneware or faience example and may have been originally fitted with a pewter cover. Such bottles were used mainly to contain spirits and, due to their shape, made storing both convenient and safe, especially on sea voyages.
Bottles of this form dating to the Ming Dynasty are rare, although the form became popular during the Kangxi period, most frequently executed in the famille verte palette, but also in blue and white. However, a few late Ming blue and white examples are published, one of which is in the the British Museum and has a similar design to the present lot, but with two mythical beasts on each face; see J. Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, no. 11:11, p. 281, where another bottle painted with flowers is included as no. 11:12, and an armorial bottle for the Portuguese market, as no. 11:10. Other armorial examples are in the Fundação Medeiros e Almeida, Lisbon, in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Kassel, Germany, and in the Museum de Vaart, Hilversum, Netherlands. Compare also the similarly-shaped blue and white bottle painted with birds and flowers in the Historisch Museum Palthe-Huis, Oldenzaal, illustrated by D. F. Lunsingh Scheurleer, Chinese Export Porcelain - Chine de Commande, London, 1974, fig. 121.