This type of flask is also known as a 'pilgrim's flask' or as a magua ping (flask to be tied to a horse). It is recorded in the Yangxindian Zaobanchu gezuo huoji Qing dang (Qing dynasty archives relating to the crafts produced by the various Imperial Household Workshops of the Yangxindian), no. 3396, that in 1742, the court official Hai Wang received an order to "make a few drawings of this magua ping with underglaze-red dragons and underglaze-blue clouds over a white ground, to be passed on to Tang Ying in Jiangxi for several pieces to be fired according to them". The present vessel may well have been among those recorded flasks.
Compare the present lot with other flasks with similar decoration and of approximately the same size: an example from the Qing Court Collection is illustrated in Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (III), The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Commerical Press Hong Kong, 2000, pl. 213; one from the Reitlinger Collection is illustrated by S. Jenyns, Later Chinese Porcelain, London, 1971, pl. XCIV, fig. 1; one from the Walters Collection is illustrated by S. Bushell, Oriental Ceramic Art, fig. 176; a slightly larger version was included in the Hong Kong Museum of Art exhibition Wonders of the Potter's Palette, 1984, and illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 66; and another was sold in these Rooms, 29 April 2001, lot 608.