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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IV  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2011: Lot 91 

Lot 91

 
   

Lot 91
Treasury 6, no.1200 (‘Winkworth’s Three Friends’)
HK$162,500

A moulded 'famille-rose' porcelain 'prunus trunk' snuff bottle

Famille-rose enamels on colourless glaze on porcelain; with a slightly convex lip and flat foot; moulded and painted in the form of the trunk of an ancient prunus tree with blossoming branches growing within the embrace of a pine, bamboo, and lingzhi, with a bat in flight across the trunk of the prunus tree; the glazed foot inscribed in iron-red seal script, Jiaqing nian zhi (‘Made during the Jiaqing period’); the lip with a pale brown glaze painted with gold enamel; the colourless glaze extending irregularly to the interior of the lip; the interior unglazed
Imperial kilns, Jingdezhen, 1796–1820
Height: 9 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.71/1.63 cm
Stopper: gilt-bronze, chased with a formalized floral design; turquoise-matrix finial

Provenance:
W. W. Winkworth (circa 1970)
Hugh M. Moss Ltd.
Jack Rose
Sydney L. Moss Ltd (1989)
Robert Kleiner (1989)

Published:
Chinese Snuff Bottles, no. 5, p. 67, fig. 68.
Treasury 6, no.1200

The survival of a large series of reign-marked moulded porcelain bottles from the Jiaqing period allows us both to recognize the importance of the reign for the development of the art form and to date many unmarked examples by comparison. We can also see that both marked and unmarked examples were produced from the same moulds, suggesting that all were made at the imperial kilns, probably for imperial use.

Several moulds of this design are recorded, confirming its popularity in the Jiaqing period; many of them are reign marked. They occur in plain- or creamy-white monochrome versions, in white with some enamel painting on the relief details, and in fully coloured versions such as this, where even the tree trunk is realistically coloured. The moulds come in different sizes; this is the largest known version, which adds to its presence, although its relatively slim form and naturalistic decoration divert attention from its height.

The splendid eighteenth-century imperial stopper, probably made in the palace workshops, is certainly not the original, but it is a noble addition nonetheless. The gold and turquoise colours blend comfortably with the enamels of the bottle.

W. W. Winkworth (Billy Winkworth, or Winky to his friends) was born into a wealthy family that had established itself in the mid-twentieth century at the forefront of collectors of Chinese art along with George Eumorphopoulos, Percival David, the Clarks, Nellie Ionides, and others. Winkworth was a dilettante collector, interested in everything, but with the true idler’s disinterest in actually working at anything too assiduously. Had he applied himself a little harder, he would have been recognized as one of the greatest experts of the twentieth century. Instead, he held tea parties for interested sinologists and quietly inspired them, and published a small number of literate and lucid articles when pressed by the editors of various magazines that needed to fill their pages. He was far ahead of his time in understanding Chinese art and collected a whole range of genuine fifteenth-century ceramics that he believed in, although they were generally thought to be eighteenth-century copies at the time. He also owned some magnificent Kangxi yuzhi wares he recognized for what they were; it was well into the 1960s before the art world realised they were not fakes. His collection, was, in short, brimming with unrecognized treasures. Although he was decades ahead of his time in his understanding of Chinese art, he could never rustle up the energy to provide arguments to support his unerring eye, whose competence covered an extraordinary span of Chinese and Japanese art. He was a gem of humanity and served good cakes with his tea. It may seem strange that such a visionary should find his first hint of immortality in the pages of a snuff-bottle book, but he collected those too – and as art, even before Jimmy and Julie Li came along to recognize the medium as deserving a place among the high arts of the Qing dynasty.

 

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