Fish pond bowl breaks early Ming porcelain record

A 600-year-old Chinese fish pond bowl has broken the record for early Ming porcelain at auction.

The blue and white bowl, produced during the reign of the Xuande emperor (1399-1435), sold for $29.5m at Sotheby's Hong Kong on April 5 – more than doubling the pre-sale estimate.

Chinese fish bowl

One of just three known from the Xuande era and the only in private hands

The new owner is a private Asian buyer, who no doubt was attracted to the item's rarity as well as its beauty.

The bowl features fish swimming in a lotus pond. This motif appears regularly in early Yuan period (1279-1368) Ming porcelain but rarely in the Xuande era.

Just two other Xuande bowls featuring the design are known. Both are smaller than the example that auctioned, which measures 23cm in diameter. Both reside at the Museum of Tapei.

Sotheby's explains the bowl is “one of the greatest examples of early Ming blue and white porcelain in private hands.

“The bowl is unrivalled in its design, painting quality, shape and size.

“Although the fish pond design has been frequently used as a motif on Chinese porcelain, it has rarely been infused with as much life as on the present bowl, whose shape cleverly evokes the illusion of gentle underwater motion.”

Xuande was the fifth Ming dynasty ruler. He was one of the great patrons of Chinese creativity; the country's porcelain industry flourished under his watch.

Elsewhere in Sotheby's Hong Kong antiquities sales this week, a large blue and white dragon vase from the Qianlong period (1735-1796) sold just above the high estimate for $6.3m.

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