A stemcup of this same design with similar blackened enamels is in the British Museum, illustrated by J. Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2000, pl. 6:12; where it is noted that in 1943 when the cup was acquired and registered at the Museum, it was recorded that it had been damaged during a fire at the Forbidden City in 1923. Recent analyses of the cup and enamels were found to be consistent with the vessel having been in a fire, especially if the cup had been stored in a fabric-lined or wooden box which would have generated a reducing atmosphere.
Imperial ceramics from the Chenghua period entered the Palace after having undergone rigorous quality control as indicated by the waste heaps excavated at the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen, and it is clear that at the time of production exacting standards were followed and flawed pieces immediately destroyed on-site. As such the present stemcup with its darkened enamels indicate that it had been subjected to heat after its production. It is known that a fire in the Forbidden City in 1923 affected a large group of doucai wares which suffered from burnt enamels and other damage. As with the British Museum stemcup, there is no doubt that the present lot is amongst this group.
It is interesting to note similar blackened enamels on Chenghua mark and period stemcups that would have almost certainly have been recovered from the Palace fire, and have found their way into public collections, such as the example in the Wu Lai-hsi collection sold at Sotheby's London, May 1937 lot 77, now in the Percival David Foundation, illustrated by R. Scott and S. Pierson, Flawless Porcelains: Imperial Ceramics from the Reign of the Chenghua Emperor, London, 1995, no. 19. A stemcup from the Oliphant and Collingwood collections is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, op. cit., 2000, p. 168, where it is recorded by the author that seventeen stemcups were damaged in the fire. A further example is found in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Porcelains in Polychrome and Contrasting Colours, The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 170, together with a pair of doucai stembowls decorated with grapes and with the enamels similarly affected, pl. 171.
A stemcup excavated from the late Chenghua strata at Zhushan was exhibited at the Tsui Museum of Art, A Legacy of Chenghua, Imperial Porcelain of the Chenghua Reign Excavated from Zhushan, Jingdezhen, Hong Kong, 1993, illustrated in the Catalogue, no. C106. From the shards, it is possible to see the how the original enamel colours would have appeared. Two other stemcups of this design and with their original enamel colours include one in the National Palace Museum, illustrated in the Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Ch'eng-hua Porcelain Ware, 1465-1487, Taiwan, 2003, no. 170; and the other from the Au Bak Ling Collection, illustrated by J. Thompson, 'Chenghua Porcelain in the Au Bak Ling Collection', Orientations, November 1998, p. 46, fig. 8.