Previously sold Sotheby's Hong Kong, 18 May 1988, lot 264.
This bowl well illustrates a new confidence among Jingdezhen enamel painters to handle areas of colour without applying a formal border as a frame. The technique is called 'boneless style' since there is virtually no apparent skeleton to the design. On this bowl, the only lines on the entire composition are the black lines to define the veins on the leaves and on the wings of the butterfly, as well as to give texture to the rock and petals of the purple flower. This 'boneless style' technique does not seem to have become widely used, either because it was too complicated to use on a mass production scale, where unskilled painters would require outlines to complete their particular small sections of decoration, or perhaps because it could, if not handled well, give the impression that the piece was unfinished.
Other examples of the 'boneless style' technique on bowls are illustrated in Qing Dai Ci Qi Shang Jian, 1994, no. 123; and in Qing Dai Taoci Da Quan, 1989, p. 185, upper. Compare also with the pair of cups decorated with butterflies and lotus flowers, and the pair of bowls with floral sprays, all painted in the same technique and illustrated in The Tsui Museum of Art, Chinese Ceramics IV, 1995, nos. 150 and 151, respectively. Another similar bowl was sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 18 May 1988, lot 264.