ROYAL HERITAGE REVISITED
SLICE OF HISTORY
An artistic marvel of 18th century ceramic ware, a ‘ moonflask’ belonging to a collection made especially for the Qianlong emperor of China, is up for auction at Bonhams on November 7, 2013. Called ‘ baoyueping’ in Chinese and traditionally referred to as ‘ pilgrims flask’ because of its characteristic round shape, the unexpected find from the dynastic collection of the ‘ first museum director’ resonates with imperial provenance. Many Chinese collectors are vying for the piece made with a rare underglaze painting technique and patterned with the auspicious five- clawed imperial dragon dating from the 14th century. The ‘ moonflask’ itself, which passed from the hands of one connoisseur to another, has an interesting story to tell. The tale begins with Charles Oswald Liddell, an Englishman settled in China, getting so transfixed by the flask’s ethereal translucence that he decided to bring it back to England in the late 19th century. That an item from the emperor’s prized collection of ceramics was under wraps for close to a century enhances the value of the flask. It is expected to fetch between £ 500,000 and £ 800,000 when it goes under the hammer.