This style of medallion bowl was very popular in the 18th century and continued to be admired by succeeding generations. As on the current bowls the ground enamel was usually incised with dense scrolls in addition to being painted with multicoloured formal floral sprays. Within the reserved circular panels, the current bowls have delicately painted depictions of autumnal flowers. One has russet and yellow chrysanthemums with daisies and asters; another has yellow chrysanthemums and begonias; a third has pink and white chrysanthemums with balsam; while the last medallion has pink, white and purple chrysanthemums with russet leaves. The choice of plants in these medallions and the delicacy with which they are painted is reminiscent of the decoration seen on a pair of small falangcai Qianlong bottles in the collection of the Percival David Foundation (illustrated by R. Scott in Elegant Form and Harmonious Decoration - Four Dynasties of Jingdezhen Porcelain, Percival David Foundation, London, 1992, p. 157, no. 181).
Chrysanthemums have provided great inspiration to Chinese artists, and have been cultivated and admired in China for centuries. They are even mentioned in the Chinese classic, the Book of Odes. The chrysanthemum is one of the 'flowers of the four seasons', representing Autumn. It is also known as one of the 'four gentlemen of flowers', along with prunus, cymbidium and bamboo. Chrysanthemums have also become associated with the famous reclusive poet Tao Yuaming (AD 373-427), who wrote poetry in their honour.
The design of these Qianlong bowls provided inspiration to later potters, and bowls of the same design were made in several later reigns. A Jiaqing (1796-1820) bowl, with very similar decoration to the current examples, is in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing (see The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 39 - Porcelains with Cloisonne Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, Commercial Press, Hong Kong, 1999, p. 207, no. 183). Similar bowls bearing Daoguang marks (1821-50) and with the same decoration are included in this sale, lot 30.