A Chinese rarity today, and a beautiful object.
Pictured is an important Imperial red lacquer, chrysanthemum-shaped bowl and cover which appears on Tuesday at Bonham’s in London.
An exceptional piece, just over four inches wide and bearing Qianlong seal marks and an inscription dating it to 1776, the bowl’s elegant body is supported on a circular foot and curves upwards to a gently-flared rim.
The domed cover has a circular knop and is decorated with raised vertical petals, all lacquered in brilliant vermillion.
Most prestigious Chinese art exhibition ever
The bowl was exhibited in one of the most historic and prestigious exhibitions of Chinese art ever held – the Royal Academy’s International Exhibition of Chinese Art in London in 1935.
Many of the exhibits were seen in Europe for the first time. An almost identical example of the bowl is in the V&A.
The Bonham’s bowl and cover were made by Imperial commission by artisans in Suzhou, with the inscriptions then carved in the Imperial workshop in Beijing.
A poem inscribed within
The interior of the bowl and the cover both have a gilt inscription of a poem by the Qianlong Emperor, dated 1776, which compares the vessel to a chrysanthemum flower.
The poems has been translated as follows:
“It is made in the form of a fragrant chrysanthemum, And yet it is even more delicate, Drinking tea from it may be likened to sipping dew, from a newly plucked blossom. Imperially inscribed in the Spring of the Bingshen year of the Qianlong reign.”
The Qianlong Emperor’s poem likens drinking tea from the cup to drinking dew from a chrysanthemum: a fairy-like experience reserved for poets, Immortals and sages.
The bowl has high expectations. Its pre-sale estimate is £100,000-£150,000.