The decoration and form of this bowl and cover find their inspiration in earlier blue and white wares of the Yuan and early Ming dynasties, and exemplify how potters during the Yongzheng and Qianlong periods revised reveered designs to suit contemporary taste. The unusual technique of using raised, slip-decorated designs from earlier periods reserved in white against a dark blue ground was developed in the Yuan dynasty (see Jingdezhen chutu Yuan Ming guanyao ciqi, Beijing, 1999, pp. pp. 70-1, nos. 6-7, for a Yuan jar and cover and an ink palette and cover decorated with dragon designs in this technique), but was employed with greater frequency during the Xuande period on a variety of vessel forms, as can be seen on several Xuande-marked examples illustrated op. cit., pp. 242-4, nos. 234-8, where nos. 234-6, a stem bowl, a bowl and a dish, respectively, are decorated with very similar scenes of four fish swimming amidst water weeds and lotus plants. The form of the present bowl and cover is based on Xuande-period prototypes typically decorated with underglaze blue designs of lotus scroll, the Eight Buddhist Emblems, floral sprays, and dragons chasing flaming pearls, such as those in the National Palace Museum illustrated in Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsuan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, Taipei, 1998, pp. 154-67, nos. 50-6.
A Yongzheng-marked bowl of this design, but lacking the cover, formerly in the Grandidier Collection, and now in the Musée Guimet, Paris, is illustrated in Oriental Ceramics, The World's Great Collections, vol. 7, Tokyo, 1981, no. 166. A Yongzheng-marked bowl and cover of this form, but completely covered on the exterior in underglaze blue and lacking the white-slip decoration, was sold in our London rooms, 18 June 2002, lot 69.