Previously sold in London, 1 April 1974, lot 355, and again in Hong Kong, 28 November 1978, lot 306.
This exquisite bowl is apparently a unique piece, as no other extant examples seem to be recorded with such a tour de force of flower painting.
During the Yongzheng period, a painterly style of porcelain painting flourished under the influence of the Jesuits at court. While many pieces painted in the famille rose palette were rendered with great attention to naturalism, few are as realistic and as densely painted as on the present bowl. The floral groups on each of the panels are extraordinary both in their variety and superb quality of painting. Each panel contains a different selection and disposition of flowers in manner which is reminiscent of the Yun Shouping masterpiece, Hundred Flowers in the Style of Xu Chongsi, sold in these Rooms, 27 April 1997, lot 418 (fig. 1). It is acknowledged that some of the finest flower-painting on porcelain in the Yongzheng reign was influenced by the work of this great painter of flowers, and the current bowl is a particularly fine example.
Yun Shouping's scroll depicts groups of dissimilar flowers in a most effective manner, which is also seen on the bowl, where the vignettes depict floral variations which are both familiar to the Chinese repertoire as well as those which are quite rare, such as the combination of peony and daisy, roses and day lilies, and peach and dianthus. The ability to skilfully juxtapose shape and colours of different flowers is seen on both the silk handscroll and the porcelain bowl.
The handscroll was painted during the Kangxi reign, in 1666, and by the Yongzheng reign, the influence of European artists was more apparent on various types of court painting. The most famous of the Western artists, Giuseppe Castiglione, was particularly prolific in the painting of flowers and birds in his repertoire. The decoration on this bowl not only incorporates the elegance and complexity seen on Yun Shouping's scroll, but also includes the occasional use of the delicate chiaroscuro of the type taught by Castiglione. The result is a porcelain vessel of remarkable beauty.
The decoration on some of the panels occurs on the other Yongzheng period porcelains, the lotus flowers and leaves for instance, but none boast the same variety of flora. Cf. a pair of bowls sold in these Rooms, 30 October 1995, lot 752, painted with knotted branches of flowering prunus. In addition, the central medallion on the present lot is highly reminiscent of a large fluted dish sold in these Rooms, 27 April 1997, lot 16; its companion, again sold in these Rooms, 26 April 1998, lot 510; and another illustrated by H. Moss, By Imperial Command, Hong Kong, 1976, pl. 64. Despite the complexity of this medallion, the design retains the elegance of the dishes while complementing the deeper shape of the bowl. Compare also a Yongzheng-marked vase illustrated by Wang-go Weng and Yang Boda in The Palace Museum: Peking, pl. 39, which shows a variation of the design in an upright form.
While the size and shape of the bowl are rare, a few other examples with the six foliated and steeply angled sides are known. Cf. the hexagonal famille rose bowl enamelled on each facet with the bajixiang, from the collection of H. P. Hebblethwaite, sold at Sothey's London, 2 December 1974, lot 541; and again at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 29 April 1992, lot 177; and another bowl with bats and peaches, sold at Sotheby's New York, 17 October 1974, lot 529.