An identical large dish of the Yongzheng period, is illustrated by R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol. 2, 1994, pl. 761, where the author compares the design to that on a Xuande-period dish illustrated by A. D. Brankston, Early Ming Wares of Chingtechen, 1938, pl. 21a. Three other very similar dishes were sold at auction, one in these Rooms, 26 September 1989, lot 651; one in our London Rooms, 5 December 1994, lot 8; and another sold in Hong Kong, 2 May 2000, lot 673. The design of this dish appears to have been quite popular, as it was continued into the Qianlong reign, where several examples of the dish were reproduced, such as the example illustrated by A. du Boulay, Christie's Pictorial History of Chinese Art, p. 203.
It is quite unusual during the Qing dynasty to find a design of dragons on a ground of floral scrolls, as dragons were mainly associated with clouds, waves or fire scrolls in the background. On the present dish, the decorator has kept the flaming pearl motif against the floral ground, although the concept of the flaming pearl is more complementary with fire and cloud scrolls. As mentioned above, the inspiration for the decoration is clearly taken from early Ming renditions of dragons frolicking among floral scrolls, such as the Xuande blue and white stembowl painted with striding dragons among lotus scrolls, included in the Special Exhibition of Dragon-Motif Porcelain in the National Palace Museum, Taibei, 1983, illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 18.
The central motif of the winged dragon is extremely rare. However, on the present lot, the outspread wings, together with outstretched limbs, contribute to the powerful and ferocious appearance of the full-faced dragon, which itself was a popular representation during the Qing dynasty. Other than the addition of wings, the vivacity of the dragon depicted here is characteristic of the Qing dynasty portrayal of the Imperial dragon, which compared to the Ming dragon, is ever more boldly detailed and defined in its facial features and more elaborately represented in its general ferocity and mythological power. Furthermore, the rendering of the dragons remains unencumbered and unobscured despite the surrounding ground of densely scrolling flowers.