Imperial Chinese dragon moonflask brings $2.3m to Bonhams

An imperial Chinese dragon moonflask made for the Qianlong emperor has seen superb results at Bonhams' Fine Chinese Art auction today (November 7).

Imperial Chinese Qianlong moonflask
Only five moonflasks of this type are known to have been made for the Qianlong emperor

It sold for £1.4m ($2.3m), up 85.3% on its £800,000 estimate. It was purchased by a Hong Kong bidder, and will now return to China.

It is one of only five moonflasks of this type made for the Qianlong emperor (1711-1799), a renowned collector and patron of the arts.

Moonflasks take their name from their shape, are are also known as pilgrim's flasks. This example is decorated with an imperial five-clawed dragon, a traditional design representing the emperor, which first originated in the 14th century.

It was acquired by Captain Charles Oswald Liddell from China, and brought to England for decoration is his country house near Chepstow. It has remained in his collection for more than 100 years, and has never appeared at auction before.

"The moonflask is a superb example of porcelain created at the highest level of the potters art for a sophisticated and demanding Imperial Court in Beijing," said Bonhams' Colin Sheaf, head of Asian art.

"The reappearance of this flask, unknown to collectors for nearly a century, is a very exciting event in the world of Chinese art."

Another Qianlong period moonflask sold at Sotheby's London last night (November 6), bringing £770,500 ($1.2m) and a 156% increase on estimate.

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