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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part V  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2012: Lot 126 

Lot 126


Lot 126
Treasury 6, no.1132 (‘Guangzhou Response’)

A ‘famille-rose’ enamelled-copper ‘European figures’ snuff bottle

Famille rose enamels on copper, with gold; with a flat lip and very slightly recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; each main side with a panel of a European subject, one a woman leaning against what appears to be a closed sack and holding a spray of flowers beside a young boy holding a fruit in a garden setting beneath a tree, a tower topped with a cross set amidst distant trees seen on the far banks of a river beyond, the other main side a man and a woman holding goblets, seated with a garden and nearby houses around them and a draped curtain above held back by tasselled cords, the panels surrounded by a chased metal design, the immediate frame foliate, the panels further enclosed within a formalized floral design in raised, chased metal on a blue enamel ground; the upper footrim and neck with raised metal strips separating areas of enamel, those at the foot of foliate design and those at the neck of formalized lingzhi design, both enclosing a painted formalized floral design in pink; the foot inscribed in black regular script, Qianlong nian zhi (‘Made during the Qianlong era’), the interior covered with a patchy, pale turquoise-blue enamel, the interior of the neck with an additional metal lining below the lip, all exposed metal gilt
Imperial, Guangzhou, 1736–1770
Height: 4.8 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.78/1.20 cm
Stopper: gilt bronze, chased with a formalized floral design

Robert Hall
Mei Ling Collection
Sotheby’s, New York, 15 March 1984, lot 76
Ashkenazie, San Francisco, (1987)

JICSBS, September 1980, p. 47
JICSBS, Spring 1984, p.ii
Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 9
Kleiner 1995,no. 15
Treasury 6, no.1132

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

This represents a very rare group from Guangzhou that can be dated to the first half of the Qianlong reign. The group is defined by the gilt-metal relief surrounding the panels and by the raised metal strips separating areas of decoration; these appear to be the result of carving away the surrounding metal in a champlevé technique, rather than applying raised wires as with cloisonné. The few known Guangzhou examples of this type are very clearly a response to the series of early-Qianlong bottles, several of which are in solid gold. The court would have developed the Beijing prototype and then ordered counterparts from Guangzhou. In this case, the Beijing prototypes far outnumber the Guangzhou versions. For other Guangzhou examples and examples of the original Beijing style that no doubt inspired the present group, see the commentary on this bottle in Treasury 6. Another feature of this group, from both Beijing and Guangzhou, is the use of a monochrome enamel for the champlevé areas – evident in the dark-blue enamel ground here.

Unlike his father, who disliked figure subjects generally and Western subjects in particular, the Qianlong emperor embraced both wholeheartedly from the start. Once the new emperor’s taste was known, the response from Guangzhou would have been rapid. What we have here is a typical Guangzhou echo of these early-Qianlong Beijing wares. The accommodation might have continued into the mid-reign, but the European figures seem to reflect European style during the early Qianlong era; Guangzhou reflections of current European fashion are, understandably, rather more accurate than those of missionaries at Beijing.

A feature of many of these European scenes, whether from Beijing or Guangzhou, is a framing curtain draped across the top and down one side of the design. In many cases, these can be seen as interior curtains, perhaps draping a window, or at least sensibly inside the building (see, for instance, the early-Qianlong enamel-on-glass bottle in the J & J Collection, The Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 185). In the present instance, the positions of both the curtain and the figures relative to the garden are ambiguous, and while the viewer could certainly be looking through a window at the scene, we must remember that the draped curtain is a general compositional device taken from European designs of the seventeenth century; it appears on a number of the enamels and prints that would have provided inspiration to Chinese enamellers. That the Guangzhou artists took it as a general framing device rather than an object in a realistic scene is suggested by a painting on glass from about 1800 in which a large tree (beneath which sits a woman with a cherub and a nearby snake) is draped with a red curtain, despite being unambiguously in an outdoor landscape (Howard and Ayers 1978, no. 671).

The writing of the mark here is of the standard Guangzhou style: in regular script but lacking solid calligraphic authority. During the Qianlong reign, the black colour used for the Yongzheng reign mark was continued, at least on many of the earlier wares.


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=1411&exhibition=10&ee_lang=eng


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Hugh Moss |