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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 107 

Lot 107

Lot 107
Treasury 6, no. 1224 (‘Subtle Erotica’)
HK$125,000

Famille rose enamels on colourless glaze on porcelain; moulded and painted to depict a reclining woman holding a handkerchief in her left hand and resting her chin in the palm of her right hand, her bound feet peeking out from her trousers; one foot forming the stopper; the interior unglazed
Jingdezhen, 1790–1830
Length: 9.8 cm (including original stopper)
Mouth/lip: 0.68/1.10 and 1.20 cm (both irregularly oval)
Stopper: famille rose enamels on colourless glaze on porcelain; moulded in the form of a foot and the hem of an undergarment; original

Provenance:
Private West Coast collection
Sotheby’s, New York, 6 April 1990, lot 22

Published:
Treasury 6, no. 1224

One of the popular figural moulds of the mid-Qing period was of a reclining woman. This is perhaps the most popular form, but others are known. In practically every case, the foot of the extended leg forms the stopper, granting somewhat constrained access to the interior by way of the hollow leg. (There is one rare exception known where access is through a hole in the top of the head; Hugh Moss records.) Like so many types, this one has aroused the interest of modern fakers, and a copy made in the last decade or so was offered in Hanhai, Beijing, 11 December 2000, lot 1510, catalogued as ‘Qing’ – and even that was over-optimistic.

None of the reclining-woman bottles is genuinely dated to any particular reign. The enamels generally would accord with the Jiaqing period, or a little later in some particular cases. The general impression gained from the group of figure-form moulded porcelains is that they began at the same time as other moulded types in the last years of the Qianlong reign, flourished in the Jiaqing, and then, as momentum began to drain from the idea and demand slackened, tailed off during the Daoguang period to settle into the regular, occasional production of later-Qing types. There seems to have been a shift in focus during the early Daoguang period from moulded porcelain bottles to individually carved ones, which may have been one reason for their decline. A new fad can only last so long in the face of a still newer one that is deemed better or more up to date.

With Sale 3, lot 124, we saw an example of what most of us would recognize as pornographic; this model, despite its apparent innocence to the Western eye, would probably have been considered by the Chinese just as erotic, and certainly as risqué. The bound feet of women in premodern China were considered erotic, because they were specific to women, embodied feminine charm and beauty, and were practically never seen. To see a bound foot, therefore, in its tiny shoe, was considered mildly erotic, as it peeked from beneath the long robes or trousers always worn by women when dressed. To draw forth the entire bound foot from a snuff bottle in order to deliver a bracing snort of nicotine would have been an erotic exercise as well as a functional one.

 

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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