It came for sale at Millon & Associés on December 11 with an ‘estimate on request’. The cataloguing was undertaken by the Paris specialist cabinet Gauchet Asian Art.
The 6½in (16cm) diameter bowl is painted with gnarled branches of plum blossom – one with pink, the other with yellow-white flowers – and to the reverse with lines of a poem revering this winter bouquet. Three seals in pink enamel are accompanied by a four-character reign mark in overglaze blue.
This type of decoration, produced by imperial ateliers in Beijing rather than at the kilns in Jingdezhen, takes its name from a workshop in the Forbidden City called Falang Zuohence.
Three other falangcai bowls of this particular type are known: one in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, another in the Wang Xing Lou collection and a third in a private collection in Hong Kong. Three shallow dishes with comparable decoration, possibly the work of the same artist, are also recorded, including that with identical enamelled seals (but a different poem) sold by Christie’s Hong Kong in 2002 for HK$32.5m including premium.
According to the provenance, the Millon bowl (sold for over €4m including fees) had been brought back from China c.1910-20 by a French military family. It had changed hands in the early 1990s and was last offered at auction by Nagel of Stuttgart in 2004.
More highlights from the French Asian art sales appear in this week's International section.