Poppies have numerous names in China, including yumeiren (beautiful woman). Poppies were a popular choice among painters on silk and paper in the late 17th and early 18th century, see for example an album leaf painting in colour on silk by Yun Shouping (1633-1690) in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, accession number: gu-hua-003200-00002 (fig. 1), where the painter has realistically portrayed the softness of the undulating petals with varying shades of pink and purple, while using a darker tone to depict the veining, both of these treatments can also be seen in the painting on the current bowl.
Poppies were a theme embraced not only by Chinese artists, but also by the European Jesuit artists at the Qing court. The most famous of these, Giuseppe Castiglione (Lang Shining 1688-1766), painted poppies on several occasions, including leaf number five from the album Immortal Blossoms of an Eternal Spring (fig. 2), preserved in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, in which a red poppy and a purple iris have been depicted beside a rock. The treatment of petals seen in the Castliglione leaf where he applies a lighter shade of red for the interior and a darker shade for the reverse is similarly found on the painting on the current bowl.
A nearly identical pair of cups was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 3 November 1998, lot 961, and another single cup is illustrated by Lady David in Ch'ing Enamelled Wares in the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, section 2, London, 1958, pl. X, no. 878 (9.3 cm. diam.). Compare also to a cup with flaring sides of slightly different composition and use of enamel colours, with the mark enclosed within a double circle, illustrated ibid., p. III no. 821 (9.1 cm. diam.). The Percival David bowls have fruit, seeds and petals on the interior rather than the flowerheads as on the present bowl.
Compare also to a pair of larger Yongzheng-marked bowls with this motif in guozhihua design but without the scattered petals or seeds on the interior, from the Dr. James D. Thornton Collection, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 29 November 2017, lot 2806.