A legendary piece of Chinese art is set to make headlines once again as it goes up for auction on April 8th. The falangcai bowl, measuring just 11.3cm across and bearing the mark of emperor Qianlong, is expected to fetch about $HK200 million or €23.7 million, according to Sotheby’s in Hong Kong. This masterpiece was last sold in 2006 for €17.9 million to the vendor’s sister, Dr Alice Cheng, who is now managing the sale.
Considered to be one of the world’s greatest imperial porcelain in private hands, the tiny piece is renowned for its creamy white body and intricate painting of swallows beside a flowering apricot tree and a willow tree. The falangcai porcelain painted in the imperial workshops of the Forbidden City in Beijing is rare and highly sought after, making this bowl one of the most legendary pieces ever to be offered at auction.
The receptacle was painted by master court enamellers in Beijing, near the emperor himself, so that he could examine the results first hand. It contains a short poem that suggests the swallows depicted on the bowl symbolize a loving couple. The bowl was part of a pair that once belonged to Captain Charles Oswald Liddell, who formed his collection in China, and was later sold to Charles Russell before ending up in the collection of Robert Chang.
Chang, renowned for having one of the world’s best collections of Chinese art, sold the bowl to his sister Dr Alice Cheng, who is a representative of the powerful Beijing-based advisory body the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. If the bowl achieves its estimated price, it will be a tidy return on the investment made by Dr Alice Cheng.