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A melon-shaped 'guan'-type vase. Seal mark and period of Qianlong

the globular melon-shaped body carved with lobes around the sides and rising to a slightly inturned mouth of similar lobed form, flanked at the sides by a pair of handles moulded as butterflies, all beneath a soft grey glaze suffused with a fine and even network of black crackles, the base inscribed with the six-character seal mark in underglaze-blue. 17.5 cm., 6 7/8 in. Estimate 200,000—250,000 HKD

PROVENANCE: A Private Japanese Collection.

NOTE: The unusual shape of this finely potted vase exemplifies the technical proficiency of Qing period craftsmen which allowed them to produce vessels that were creative and perfectly suited the Qianlong emperor's taste for the idiosyncratic and unique. This piece is extremely rare and no other vessel of this form appears to have been published.

The Qianlong emperor favoured works that were visually charming but that were also steeped in tradition and auspicious associations. Skilfully covered in a glaze that imitates the highly prized Guan ware of the Song dynasty (960-1279), the combination of butterflies with melons symbolises the wish for numerous descendants.

Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art. 08 Apr 09. Hong Kong www.sothebys.com photo courtesy Sotheby's