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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IV  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2011: Lot 52 

Lot 52


Lot 52
Treasury 6, no.1162 (‘Immortal’s Birthday Greeting’)

A moulded 'famille-rose' porcelain 'garden scene' snuff bottle

Famille-rose enamels on colourless glaze on cobalt on porcelain; with a slightly convex lip and convex rectangular foot; moulded on each side with a slightly recessed convex panel featuring an identical garden scene including a natural rock formation, lingzhi, bamboo, and narcissus on a speckled pale-green bank, the panels surrounded by an underglaze-blue formalized floral design detailed in gold enamel; the lip with a pale-brown glaze painted with gold enamel; the foot inscribed in iron-red seal script Qianlong nian zhi (‘Made during the Qianlong period’); the interior unglazed
Imperial kilns, Jingdezhen, 1770–1795
Height: 5.9 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.74/1.75 cm
Stopper: coral; vinyl collar

Robert Kleiner (1991)

Kleiner 1995,no. 194
Treasury 6, no.1162

British Museum, London, June–October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

This is the second example in the Bloch Collection of this relatively rare, impressive early group of moulded porcelain bottles discussed under the other example in the collection, Sale 3, lot 140. This group is precursor to fully developed works of art in the Jiaqing reign.

We believe that the reversal of the ‘S’ element in the lower-left quadrant of the character Qian of a Qianlong reign mark indicates that the bottle bearing the mark was made between the abdication of Hongli in 1795 and his death in 1799, when technically the Jiaqing reign of his successor had already begun. In this particular case, the ‘S’ element is not reversed but written in the standard manner for the Qianlong reign. Our theory would therefore indicate that this bottle was produced before 1795. It represents an early phase in the evolution of moulded porcelain snuff bottles, so a date from earlier in the second half of the reign is feasible. As with so many creative innovations in the evolution of the snuff bottle, it was the Qianlong emperor who first explored the potential of moulded decoration for snuff bottles, even if it was under his son, the Jiaqing emperor, that the art reached its pinnacle.

These earlier moulded porcelain snuff bottles, discreet, low-relief affairs where the enamelling predominates over the moulding, often have the same design on both sides, taken, presumably, from a single mould. This is often obscured by the fact that the enamelling seldom precisely follows the moulding. Producing wares in sets of ten or twenty at a time, the enameller obviously became familiar with the scene and varied the details of his brushwork, only broadly following the shallow relief. Judging the moulds is also made more difficult by the fact that a thick layer of some enamels, blue in particular, can be almost as high in relief as the moulded design itself, so where the painter has added heavy blue enamel to the rock, for instance, it becomes difficult to tell moulding from enamelling, especially when working from illustrations. In this particular case, we are reasonably confident that a single mould was used for both sides, despite the apparent differences.


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Hugh Moss |