Previously sold in Hong Kong, 29 October 1991, lot 29.
Similar Yongle flasks of this large size are illustrated by Ayers, Far Eastern Ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum, no. 145; by Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul, vol. II, no. 616, col. pl. 426; in the Exhibition of Famous Pieces of Chinese Porcelain in the Matsuoka Museum of Art, 1983, Catalogue, no. 48; in the Exhibition of Blue and White, Chinese Porcelain and its Impact on the Western World, 1985, Catalogue, no. 15, from the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Smaller flasks with the same decoration are illustrated in Underglaze Blue and Red, p. 66, pl. 52, from the Shanghai Museum; by Lion-Goldschmidt in La Porcelain Ming, pl. 35, from the Percival David Foundation, London; in Mayuyama, Seventy Years, vol. I, p. 247, nos. 743 and 746; in Oriental Ceramics, Kodansha Series, vol. 5, no. 164, from the British Museum, London; in the S.C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, Catalogue, vol. I, pl. 14; in the Min Chiu Society Exhibition, An Anthology of Chinese Art, 1985, Catalogue, no. 148; and in the Exhibition of Chinese Art, Venice, 1954, Catalogue, p. 171, no. 627. Another was sold in these Rooms, 22 March 1993, lot 714.
A white-glazed moonflask is included in the exhibtion Porcelain of the Yongle and Xuande Periods Excavated from the Site of the Ming Imperial Factory at Jingdezhen, Catalogue, no. 5, where the authors note that the early Yongle flasks were made without a defined foot. The glaze was trimmed away in the early examples to form the base, whereas the later Yongle flasks, such as the present example, have shallow ring foots.
It is well known that such flasks were made primarily for export or as gifts to Near Eastern rulers. For the origins of its shape and decoration, see Pope, 'An Early Ming Porcelain in Muslim Style', Aus der Welt der Islamischen Kunst, Festschrift fur Ernst Kuhnel, 1959; Gray, 'The Influence of Near Eastern Metalwork on Chinese Ceramics', Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, 1940-41, vol. 18, p. 57 and pl. 7F; and Medley, 'Islam and Chinese Porcelain in the 14th and Early 15th Centuries', Bulletin of the Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong, no. 6, 1982-84, fig. 11.