'Porcelain production' Chinese fishbowls estimated at $150,000

In its January 28 English Pottery and Chinese Export Art auction, Christie's is to offer a pair of rare "porcelain production" fishbowls as the top lot.

Chinese porcelain production fishbowls Christie's
This idealised view of porcelain production was even recreated as wallpaper

The bowls, which originate from the mid-18th century, have been given a pre-sale estimate of $100,000-150,000. Unlike many of the important Chinese ceramics offered on the market today, these were made specifically to cater for demand in Europe.

While the Western world was aware of Jingdezhen - China's vast industrial city that produced porcelain - from Pére d'Entrecolles' visits in 1715, buyers obviously preferred the idealised view of the production as shown on the two fishbowls. Each piece is decorated with romanticised scenes showing ceramics being handmade in a traditional workshop.

These images are similar to those found in well-known watercolour albums that were produced for export and also showed tea and silk production - highly-desirable luxuries for wealthy Europeans. It was also fashionable to display the porcelain production scenes as wallpaper, with an example still found on the walls of Coutts - a private London banking firm - today.

There are just two blue and white patterns showing porcelain production known to exist, with the detailed famille rose decoration found on the fishbowls an extreme rarity. Similar designs only exist on a handful of very large and grand porcelains, with Christie's stating that the pair "must have made a dramatic statement once they arrived in Europe."

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