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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IV  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2011: Lot 38 

Lot 38


Lot 38
Treasury 6, no.1071 (‘Jesuit Hands’)

A 'famille-rose' enamelled glass 'European-subject' snuff bottle

Famille-rose enamels on translucent white glass; with a flat lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding convex footrim, with raised rounded rectangular panels on each of the four sides; painted on the two main-side panels with European subjects, one of a young woman with a basket of flowers over her left arm, the corner of a building behind her, and the other with a young woman holding a goblet and standing beside a tall, circular stand with lathe-turned legs on which a bowl of fruit, including a Buddha’s-hand fruit, is set, an architectural column behind her; the two narrow-side panels painted in ruby red with Chinese landscape scenes, one with a riverside village, the other with an open pavilion set on a riverbank beneath trees; the frame contained within formalized, floral swags, the panels surrounded by a yellow enamel ground painted with an iron-red, scrolling, formalized floral design, the shoulders with a band of scrolling, interlocking, formalized floral design, including lingzhi, linked by rings beneath a neck band of formalized petals; the foot inscribed in blue regular script Qianlong nian zhi (‘Made during the Qianlong period’)
Imperial, palace workshops, Beijing, 1736–1760
Height: 8.07 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.86/1.49 cm
Stopper: mother-of-pearl; coral collar

Unidentified Hong Kong dealer (prior to 1975)
B. T. Lyons
Sotheby’s, London, 20 April 1982, lot 64
Mei Ling Collection
Sotheby’s, New York, 15 March 1984, lot 73 (front cover illustration)
Ashkenazie, San Francisco, (1987)

Arts of Asia, July-August 1982, p. 133
JICSBS, Spring 1984, p. ii
Orientations, June 1984, p. 64
JICSBS, Summer 1984, p. 30
Christie’s Review of the Season, 1983–84, p. 388
Arts of Asia, September–October 1990, p. 90, fig. 1c
Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 14
Kleiner 1994a, plate 3
Kleiner 1995, no. 23
JICSBS, Autumn 2000, p. 15, fig. 50
Treasury 6, no.1071

Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum of Singapore, November 1994–February 1995
British Museum, London, June–October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

The largest snuff bottle of all recorded palace enamels on glass, this is set apart by the distinctly European, elaborate trompe l’oeil frames around all four panels. The main panels are of European subjects, while the subsidiary ones are Chinese landscapes, but, quite apart from the main subject, we can be certain of considerable European influence here. Even without their facial features and curly, pale-coloured hair, these figures would be recognized as European women. Chinese women would never be depicted under normal circumstances in such revealing garments. Are these foreigners representative of the wanton behaviour the Chinese often attributed to the women of strange cultures? Or is it simply a mark of sophistication and class to capture images of Europeans in their native element and fix them within the confines of a miniature painting?

Certain Chinese features are introduced, such as the basket one woman holds and the tall, circular table beside which the other stands, which is based on a standard Chinese incense stand (designed to hold the three essential components of an incense set: burner, powder box, and small vase to hold incense tools). The designer, however, while using a typically Chinese piece of furniture, gave it lathe-turned legs entirely in European style. Was the designer a missionary artist producing a design to please his Chinese masters, complete with familiar Chinese furniture in the foreign setting; or a Chinese designer automatically adding an essential piece of native furniture to the design, but trying to make it look in keeping with the Western subject matter?

European influence is even apparent in the Chinese scenes of the narrow-side panels. Although they are typical Chinese landscape scenes, the central clump of trees on one of them, with their straight trunks and the upper branches of a bare tree beyond, hint at European influence from either the designer or the enameller. Even the formalized petals at the neck, based upon the standard broad, repeated lotus-petals that appear so frequently on Buddhist figural images, resemble tufts of helmet feathers from a European military uniform. The influence of the missionaries in the court arts of glassmaking and enamelling (particularly on metal and glass, which were arts introduced from the West) was considerable during the first half of the eighteenth century, and when this bottle was made, European and Chinese court artists worked side by side at the palace workshops.


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Hugh Moss |