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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 188 

Lot 188

Lot 188
Treasury 6, no. 1130 (‘Southern Lotus’)
HK$1,720,000

Famille rose enamels on copper, with gold; with a flat lip and a protruding, slightly concave foot surrounded by a flattened footrim; painted with a formalized design repeated on each main side of a circular shou (‘longevity’) character in blue seal script with a bat above it, its inner wings terminating in five formalized lingzhi, surrounded by a scrolling floral design comprising a formalized lotus flanked by highly stylized camellias and buds; the foot inscribed in brownish-black enamel regular script Yongzheng nian zhi (‘Made during the Yongzheng period’); the interior covered with a patchy white enamel, the interior of the neck with an additional, metal lining below the lip; all exposed metal gilt
Imperial, Guangzhou, 1723–1735
Height: 4.6 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.85/1.3 cm
Stopper: gold, chased with a formalized floral design

Provenance:
Sotheby’s, New York, 6 April 1990, lot 295
Joseph Baruch Silver
Clare Lawrence
Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd (1992)

Published:
Kleiner 1995, no. 18
Treasury 6, no. 1130

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

The extraordinary quality of Yongzheng Guangzhou production for the court is exemplified here, with masterly painting coupled with faultless technical perfection. The surface is miraculously flat and even, free of flaws, and every colour has fired to perfection, which was rarely possible at Beijing at the time. Technically, painted enamels on metal in China do not get any better than this.

The formalized floral design is as fine as any similar design produced during the reign at Beijing. Moreover, it is as substantially made as its Beijing equivalents, heavy in the hand and with an impressive underlying layer of enamel on the exterior. This bottle was clearly an attempt to prove to the emperor that southern enamelling could hold its own with its courtly counterpart, without any hint of apology.

One other feature that demonstrates the bottle’s superior quality at the time it was made is the inner metal neck, which has been gilded as heavily as the rest of the exposed metalwork. This metal inner neck is sometimes found on snuff bottles, but on the majority of Beijing wares was usually quite short, extending no more than a millimetre or two inside the bottle, whereas here it is a liner covering the entire inner neck to a depth of half a centimetre. This custom began at the palace with such bottles as Sale 4, lot 166, which has a deep inner neck liner, and it is possible that this Beijing feature was copied in the South at Guangzhou.

Not long after the first publication of this bottle from the Bloch Collection, several copies of it began to appear on the market bearing rather anomalous Beijing-style Qianlong reign marks in blue enamel. One was offered at Eldred’s, 23 August 2002, lot 273.

 

This is not the Sotheby’s sale catalogue. This is a product of Hugh Moss for the purposes of this website. For the catalogue details please refer to Sotheby’s website or request a copy of a printed sale catalogue from Sotheby’s

 

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