Rare Qing Dynasty enamel bowl set for auction in April

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The three consecutive emperors of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Kangxi, his son Yongzheng and grandson Qianlong, were known as keen art patrons and connoisseurs who through decades built an imperial assemblage of immensity in categories and sophistication in quality. Objects that they once personally appreciated often trigger bidding races when they appear at auctions now.

An 18th-century falangcai, or enameled porcelain bowl to be auctioned in Hong Kong. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Two such works of art dating to the 18th century will be auctioned on April 3 in Hong Kong.

One is an falangcai, or enameled porcelain bowl produced at imperial workshops, under the watchful eyes of Emperor Kangxi, in the late 1710s and early 1720s.

It will go under the hammer during Sotheby's major spring sales.

Fanglangcai refers to the porcelain items made using the enameling technique imported from the West in the 17th century. Nicolas Chow, the chairman of Sotheby's Asia, tells China Daily that "falangcai objects represent the last major development in the long and rich history of Chinese ceramics in China".

The bowl to be sold features a rarely-seen soft pink ground, on which various floral kinds were painted on four five-lobed, azure panels.

Few bowls with the similar pastel pink and turquoise grounds are found in existence.

Chow says a closely related example decorated with identical colored grounds is now housed at the Palace Museum in Taipei, but it is painted with a different combination of floral sprays.

He says the two bowls would have been painted using the very same batch of subtly shaded colors, and it was nearly impossible to replicate at a later time.

The bowl to be auctioned also shows Emperor Kangxi's keen interest in Western knowledge and techniques so much that he established enameling workshops inside the Forbidden City. He wanted the first-hand observations of artisans experimenting with the technical procedures, even though the undertaking would not only generate noise, smells and dirt but also pose fire risks.

The bowl was first fired plain at the imperial factories in Jingdezhen, hailed as the "porcelain capital" in East China's Jiangxi province. It was then carted off to the court workshops in Beijing for the second stage of processing, enameling and firing to completion.

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