A flask made during the reign of Emperor Qianlong between 1736 and 1795 will be sold by Bonhams on November 7.
It estimates that it will sell for between £500,000 and £800,000 ($1.2 billion). The turquoise vase is decorated with a rampant red Imperial dragon.
The moonflask was collected in China by Captain Charles Oswald Liddell between 1877 and 1913 and has been in his family’s country house in Scotland since then.
“The reappearance of this flask, unknown to collectors for nearly a century, is a very exciting event in the world of Chinese art,” said Colin Sheaf, head of the Chinese Art Department at Bonhams.
Bonhams says that the flask is one of less than five such vessels known to have been made for the Qianlong Emperor. This flat-sided full-bodied flask is round like the moon, so is known as a ‘moonflask’ in English and ‘baoyueping’ or ‘bianhu’ in Chinese. It takes it form Middle Eastern prototype for water flasks so are also known as “pilgrim’s flasks”.
Although Bonhams says that museums are often attracted to these types flasks it is likely that the winner bidder will be a Chinese collector.