Previously sold in Hong Kong, 14 November 1989, lot 196.
A chrysanthemum-shaped bowl with the same poem rendered in gilt on the interior is in the Percival David Foundation, included in the exhibition, For the Imperial Court, 1997, and illustrated by R. Scott in the Catalogue, no. 19, where the author translates the poem as follows:
It is made in the form of a fragrant chrysanthemum,
And yet it is even more delicate,
Drinking tea from it may be likened to sipping dew from a newly plucked blossom.
Imperially inscribed in the bingshen year of the Qianlong reign.
This dish, and others like it, were inspired by tuotai or 'bodiless' lacquerware inscribed in gilt in the same manner with imperial poems and Qianlong marks. Porcelain was often made to simulate the shape and texture of other media, especially since it was a medium that was relatively easy to control and decorate to the high standards of Imperial quality. Related to the present porcelain dish and illustrated in Zhongguo Qiqi Quanji, vol. 6, are a chrysanthemum-shaped lacquer covered bowl inscribed in gilt with the same poem, no. 2, and a similarly shaped dish with a poem dated to 1774 in praise of early lacquerware, no. 1. Another lacquer example, also with an inscription dated to 1776, was exhibited at the 1935-36 International Exhibition in London, and published in A Commemorative Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, no. 2957; and one is illustrated by Wan-go Weng and Yang Boda in The Palace Museum, Peking, Treasures of the Forbidden City, pl. 174. A fine lacquer dish with an imperial poem dated to 1774, was sold in our London Rooms, 6 June 2000, lot 207.
Compare the present dish with other slighly larger porcelain examples that are glazed coral-red and gilt with poems. Cf. the dish in the Baur Collection, illustrated by Beurdeley and Raindre, Qing Porcelain, Famille Verte, Famille Rose, no. 224; the covered bowl and dish in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Kangxi Yongzheng Qianlong, 1989, p. 402, pl. 102; and a pair of bowls with covers, also cyclically dated to 1776, are illustrated in Qingdai Ciqi Shangdian, 1994, no. 217. Such dishes have also been sold at auction, such as the pair from the Jingguantang Collection, sold in these Rooms, 5 November 1997, lot 865.
R. Scott also mentions, op. cit., 1997, p. 76, that the chrysanthemum, together with bamboo, orchid and prunus, is regarded as one of the "four gentlemen of flowers" and was a favourite subject of painters and craftsmen. It is mentioned in early classical Chinese literature such as The Book of Odes, and is a symbol of autumn and longevity.