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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IV  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2011: Lot 2 

Lot 2


Lot 2
Treasury 6, no.1336 (‘Imperial Relief’)

A moulded 'famille-rose' porcelain 'dragon' snuff bottle

Emerald green, aubergine-purple, iron-red, black, and white enamels on colourless glaze on porcelain; with a flat lip and flat foot; moulded and painted with a continuous design of an imperial five-clawed dragon chasing a flaming pearl; the foot inscribed in iron-red seal script, Daoguang nian zhi (‘Made during the Daoguang period’); the lip glazed; the inner neck and interior unglazed
Imperial kilns, Jingdezhen, 1821–1850
Height: 5.91 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.69/1.63 cm
Stopper: carnelian

Trojan Collection

Hall 1992, no. 63
Kleiner 1995,no. 213
Treasury 6, no.1336

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

The fashion for moulded porcelain bottles seems to have lost its steam in the early years of the Daoguang period. It is likely that, early in the reign, moulding techniques were adapted to the more painterly taste of the Daoguang court in simpler bottles of this type and then abandoned almost entirely. This striking design, with the dragon moulded in relief before being enamelled, may date from the earlier part of the reign, before that shift was well underway. Another possible indication that it is from early rather than late in the reign is the fact that it is one of the few Daoguang imperial porcelain bottles that is not glazed inside, perhaps a hangover from the earlier mid-Qing style.

In this simple version of a moulded porcelain, almost the entire design, right down to the whiskers of the dragon, is moulded, defining the beast for the enameller. Just to keep us all on our toes, however, the enameller has to some extent ignored the moulded relief of the mane between the horns and given the beast a rather more impressive series of three tufts of hair that fly upward onto the flat ground. Some of the wisps of beard beneath the dragon’s jaw likewise refuse to stay in place.

This typical Daoguang imperial dragon, bold, powerful, and vital and with a large and fierce-looking head, is an extremely effective design, and was obviously sufficiently popular to inspire different versions. Many examples are known from several different moulds, as listed under this bottle in Treasury 6.

Because of the prominent relief, these bottles are often rather worn (particularly the vulnerable iron-red versions). Pushing all the enamels proud of the surface ensures that if the bottle is well used, the effects on the enamels will be exaggerated. This can hardly have come as a surprise to potters or their patron by the 1820s. By that time, the susceptibility to wear of those made in the previous thirty years or so would probably have become apparent from the old porcelain snuff bottles still in use. It is possible that this was one of the reasons moulded porcelain bottles became far less fashionable during the Daoguang reign.


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Hugh Moss |