Cunliffe Musk-Mallow Bowl auctions for $18m at Sotheby's

The Cunliffe Musk-Mallow Bowl, an unrivalled example of Chinese blue and white pottery, has sold in a single lot sale from Sotheby's in Hong Kong.

Cunliffe Musk-Mallow Chenghua bowl
The bowl is one of just two remaining in private hands

The bowl crossed the block on October 8, making an impressive $18.2m. Originating from the Chenghua era (1465-1487), the piece "embodies the special appeal of that period".

According to Sotheby's, the Chenghua era marked the pinnacle of ceramic production at the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen, with the porcelain stone and glaze among the finest ever achieved. Palace bowls such as this were those of the finest form and finish, and were made for only a few years at the end of the Chenghua reign.

The Cunliffe bowl, decorated with musk-mallow flowers, is one of only two examples of this design still remaining in private hands. A further 11 are housed in museum collections, although none are preserved in mainland China or the US.

Those remaining with collectors have only appeared at auction three times, once in 1951, another in 1973 and the third in 2009.

The piece takes its name from its time in the collection of Lord Cunliffe (1899-1963), a renowned collector who once owned three Chenghua palace bowls. It last sold at Sotheby's in 1981 for $524,867.

The sale came as part of Sotheby's Hong Kong autumn auctions, which are being held to celebrate the auction house's 40th anniversary in Asia.

Top results so far include a record for Asian contemporary art set by Zeng Fanzhi's The Last Supper at $23m, and another record for a white diamond set by a 118.2 carat example - the biggest ever offered at auction.

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