Previously sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 15 May 1990, lot 284.
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, 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 seen on a cup sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 29 April 2002, lot 562.
Compare the present lot with other Yongzheng chicken cups, such as 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 Exhibition of the Arts of the Ch'ing Dynasty, Oriental Ceramic Society, London, 1964, Catalogue, no. 194. Cf. also three cups in the Edward T. Chow Collection, respectively with Chenghua, Kangxi and Yongzheng marks, all illustrated together by M. Beurdeley, La Ceramique Chinoise, col. pls. 71 and 72. These cited Qing cups follow very closely the original Chenghua style of painting and composition of the birds. Compare, also, the Yongzheng-marked example of similar size (8.2 cm.) sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 27 May 2008, lot 1587 and another at Christie's New York, 19 March 2009, lot 554.
Most Chenghua chicken cups are in museum collections, eight in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 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 illustrated by J. Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, vol. II, Geneva, 1999, no. 64 (A141).