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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IV  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2011: Lot 16 

Lot 16


Lot 16
Treasury 6, no.1212 (‘Cultural Heroes’)

A moulded 'famille-rose' porcelain 'scholarly pastime' snuff bottle

Famille-rose enamels on colourless glaze on porcelain; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding convex footrim; moulded and painted with two scenes linked together at the narrow sides to give the impression of a continuous rocky waterside landscape, one with three men in a canopied boat with a servant dozing off on a stool in the prow and a young woman steering in the stern, the other with a scholar on a garden terrace inscribing a rock face, his servant standing behind him holding his inkstone; with an irregular band of formalized clouds around the neck; the foot inscribed in iron-red seal script, Jiaqing nian zhi (‘Made during the Jiaqing period’); the lip painted gold; the interior unglazed save for one accidental splash of glaze near the foot
Imperial kilns, Jingdezhen, 1796–1820
Height: 7.6 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.66/1.9 cm
Stopper: gold and iron-red enamels on glaze on porcelain, moulded with a formalized chrysanthemum design; contemporaneous, but possibly not the original

Private American collection
Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd. (1988)

Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 160
JICSBS, Winter 2004, p. 21, fig. 9
Treasury 6, no.1212

Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum of Singapore, November 1994–February 1995

One of the many impressive moulded porcelain bottles of the Jiaqing period, this design shows what may be the Song poet Su Shi (1037–1101), also known as Su Dongpo, taking a boat ride with two companions to the Red Cliff (a place with historical significance, located in the suburbs of Huanggang county in Hubei province). Su Shi made two such visits and wrote two prose poems about them that, becoming immensely famous, cemented the main events of the trips into popular culture forever. Here we see the poet and his two companions setting out on their second visit (see Treasury 5, no. 1055, and Jonathan Chaves, ‘Boating Beneath The Red Cliff’, JICSBS, Winter 2004, pp. 18–23).

On the other side is a scene of a scholar lifting his brush to inscribe a rock face with calligraphy while his servant stands behind him holding an inkstone full, no doubt, of ground ink.

These scenes of boating with friends and inscribing poems not only summon to the Chinese mind eminent historical figures remembered for having participated in these activities, they are also reminiscent of some of the favourite pastimes pursued by intellectuals.

This is one of the largest of the Jiaqing moulds, being a compressed ovoid form with a wider profile than most, allowing a larger ‘canvas’ for the design; one only has to compare this with Sale 3, lot 91, to see to what good effect the extra width has been put, particularly with the boating scene, where it is no longer necessary to place the boat aslant in order to fit it comfortably into the space. It is possible that this broader form evolved partly in order to keep Su Shi’s boat horizontal.

This bottle is in unusually good condition; apart from some minimal abrasions to protruding detail, we are seeing the bottle in much the same state as when it would have been delivered to the Jiaqing emperor. The only question is the stopper, which is of the right period and suitable to the bottle but may not be the original. In all cases where we can be certain of an original stopper, the stopper is either of the same diameter as the lip or slightly larger, to make removal easier. Here it is a little smaller. A small solid-porcelain stopper may shrink in the firing as much as twenty per cent, and it is possible that not all stoppers turned out to be perfect fits, but by the time this bottle was made, the potters were well aware of this and would almost certainly have been able to make stoppers fit perfectly.

There is an intriguing version of this subject on a smaller scale that, judging from its similarity to a few known Daoguang moulded porcelain bottles of the same type, probably dates from late in the Jiaqing reign (see for instance, Christie’s, London, 7 June 1993, lot 246). In a rare departure from the usual formats for reign marks, it is marked Da Qing Jiaqing (‘Jiaqing, Qing dynasty’). At times during the mid-Qing period, nonstandard reign marks were used both on porcelains and other wares. Although we know a second mould existed for this design, most seem to be from this mould, insofar as it is possible to be sure when comparing illustrations rather than the original bottles. For other examples see Sotheby’s, New York, 27 October 1986, lot 16 (from the Szekeres Collection); Vanessa Holden 2002, no. 230; Rachelle Holden 1994, no. 151; Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 27 September 1978, lot 170; Christie’s, Hong Kong, 18 March 1991, lot 411; Christie’s, New York, 3 June 1993, lot 315; and Christie’s, New York, 21 March 2000, lot 26, (from the Holden Collection).

For another example, from a slightly simplified and less impressive mould, see Hanhai, Beijing, 24 October 1996, lot 20.


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