The duomuhu shape is derived from a Tibetan prototype, bey-lep, used for storing milk tea in Lamaist monasteries. It has a long history in China beginning in the Yuan dynasty when the religion first became adopted under Kublai Khan. See the 14th Century qingbai ewer of this form excavated from a Yuan site, now in the Captital Museum, Beijing, exhibited Treasures from Ancient Beijing, Christie's New York, jointly presented by Christie's Education and The Beijing Cultural Relics Bureau, March/April 2000, catalogue no. 8. In the early 15th Century, the Emperor Yongle sent important gifts of porcelain for Lamaist rituals to Tibet. A pair of Kangxi (1662-1722) porcelain ewers of this form with aubergine glaze was mounted in ormolu in Europe in 1783 for Marie-Antoinette for her private chambers. They were subsequently sold in these Rooms; see Christie's Review of the Season 1994, Frontispiece and p. 132.
It is very rare to find a pair of ewers of this shape, although single examples are well-known in porcelain and most other media. Compare the example enamelled with sprigs and butterflies in three zones and with a similar chilong handle and spout sold in our Hong Kong Rooms, 20 November 1984, lot 422. Compare also the example from the W. T. Walters Collection, illustrated by S. W. Bushell, Oriental Ceramic Art, London, 1981, fig. 168, p.128, where the author suggests that such ewers were used for iced syrup; and the teadust example included in the Min Chiu Society exhibition of Monochrome Ceramics, Hong Kong, 1977, catalogue no. 98. An example in cloisonné and painted enamels with a Qianlong reign mark is illustrated by H. Moss, By Imperial Command, Hong Kong, 1976, pl. 26.
The enamelling on the present ewers, especially the tone of pink used for the main flowers, recalls that used on 'tobacco-leaf' wares, dating to circa 1770-80. The ground is also reminiscent of the sgraffiato technique, although instead of the enamel having incised patterns, in this case it is delicately enamelled.