The result of thermoluminescence test, Oxford, P102u10, is consistent with the dating of this lot.
These arms represent those of King Philip II of Spain (1556-1598, who also became King Philip I of Portugal in 1580, although the design was probably taken from a Spanish coin. Flasks such as these are, however, not actualy mentioned in the inventory of the royal collection. The design was probably taken from a Spanish coin. The shape of the flask, highly unusual in Chinese porcelain, probably derives from an earlier Middle Eastern metal prototype. See D. Barrett, Islamic Metalwork in the British Museum, London, 1949, pl.9 for a 13th Century Persian bronze pilgrim flask of related form.
Similar blue and white flasks, some with figural decoration replacing the floral decoration on the reverses, and many with reduced, restored or metal-replaced necks, are in museum collections around the world, including the British Museum (J. Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, pp.281-2), the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Peabody Musem, Salem (Highlights of Asian Export Art, p.14), the Museum of Dr. Anastácio Gonçalves, Lisbon, the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, and the Tokyo National Museum.
A few are or have been in private collections: the Mottahedeh example (Howard and Ayers, China for the West, London and New York, 1978, vol. I, no. 8), which was at one time sold in Sotheby's London, 24 April 1966, lot 64 (590 gns. to Mrs. Glatz), sold Sotheby's New York, 25 January 1989, lot 318; the Dr. Amaral Cabral example, originally in the collection of Ricardo Espirito Santo Silva (Azul e Branco da China, no. 54), at one time sold Sotheby's London, 3 November 1953, lot 26 (36gns. to M. de Haan) ; the example from the George Duff collection, now in the Dr. Anastácio Gonçalves Museum (M. Beurdeley, Porcelain of the East India Companies, London, 1962, fig.61, p.87, and N. de Castro, Chinese Porcelain and the Heraldry of the Empire, Oporto, 1988, p.26).
Compare also the similar flasks sold in these Rooms: 2 November 1987, lot 395, now in the Peabody Museum of Salem; 21 March 1988, lot 200; 12 June 1989 (The Peony Pavilion Collection), lot 401; 28 and 29 May 1992 (Spanish Works of Art), lot 195; and in our South Kensington Rooms, 14 June 2001, lot 588.