A large Yongzheng (1722-35) mark and period famille rose dish was striking for its impressive size and colourful design filled with powerful portents of good fortune and long life. On this dish two ferocious side-facing five-clawed dragons, symbols of the emperor, are painted in washes of pink and green enamels moving towards a central shou medallion. The five-coloured clouds, eight cranes and ten red bats carry further symbolic meanings – suitable for an imperial birthday gift.
It came for sale from the ‘property of a European noble family’ and had been acquired by an ancestor who had been a diplomat in China in the mid 19th century. Housed in a 19th century hardwood frame, it had been guided at £260,000-360,000. The hammer price was £400,000.
A Qianlong mark and period blue and white dish of similar dimensions, 17½in (45cm) across, came from a German collector – the source of some of Sotheby’s best-performing lots. A group of dishes of this size and shape are known, all painted in similar tones of vibrant and unusually deep dark blue with a central dragon enclosing a stylised shou character in the curve of its body. Christie’s has sold two in the past: one in Hong Kong in 2000 for HK$450,000 and another in New York in 2011 for $1.1m. This most recent example, pitched at £70,000-90,000, took £240,000.