Ruby back Qianlong teabowl and saucer, £6800 at Elstob.

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Both the saucer and the teabowl are painted with a butterfly and flowers to the centre bordered by a yellow diaper ground reserved with vignettes.

Since the word for butterfly in Chinese is homophonous with one meaning repeat and similar to one meaning over 70 or 80 years, the insects are often featured in decoration in Qing dynasty porcelain to suggest a wish for longevity.

Both the saucer and teabowl, which were finely potted, were covered to the exterior in a ruby glaze with a soufflé-like texture that is probably achieved by blowing the enamel through a tube with gauze covering the end. Conditionwise, there was a hairline crack to both the bowl and saucer and some small losses to the ruby glaze on the saucer.


Ruby back Qianlong teabowl and saucer, £6800 at Elstob, with detail of base.

This piece also had the bonus of an attractive old provenance attested by a label to the underside of the teabowl indicating that it came from the PB Cooke collection and was part of the BADA Art Treasures Exhibition held at Christie’s in 1932.

It ended up selling for £6800 in Ripon on January 10.