Previously sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 3 May 1994, lot 233.
The closest comparison to the present lot, especially in terms of its size and decoration, is the bowl formerly in the collection of H. M. Knight, now in the Tianminlou Collection, illustrated in Chinese Porcelain, The S. C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, Vol. 1, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 1987, no. 101.
This bowl is extremely rare, firstly because of its unusually large size and secondly, for its elaborate design and colour scheme. Several smaller bowls enamelled on a yellow ground with white and black cranes in similar configuration as the present bowl, but without the colourful emblems, are known, such as the one in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Kangxi Yongzheng Qianlong, Hong Kong, 1989, p. 237, pl. 66; one in the Baur Collection, illustrated by J. Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, vol. 2, 1999, pl. 204 [A542]; and another from the Warre Collection, illustrated by R. Hobson, The Later Ceramic Wares of China, pl. LIX, fig. 3.
In addition to the usual green, yellow and black colour combination found on smaller bowls of this pattern, this bowl is also decorated with red, blue, turquoise and pink enamels which are used with spectacular results. Geng Baochang records in 'Ming Qing ciqi jianding (The Authentication of Ming and Qing Porcelain)', Zhonghua wenwu zhishi congshu, Hong Kong, 1984, that according to the imperial archives, this kind of vessel with designs in red, blue, white, green, aubergine and black enamels on yellow ground is referred as a 'new category of wucai', an innovation of the Yongzheng period.
The design elements of the present bowl, including the Shou symbols, cranes and Daoist emblems, are all very auspicious, as they allude to longevity. It is very possible that this bowl was commissioned for the anniversary of a birthday. These motifs first found popularity in the late Ming dynasty, proliferating in the official wares from the Jiajing period, as the emperor was a follower of Daoism and was fascinated with longevity and immortality.