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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 154 

Lot 154

Lot 154
Treasury 6, no. 1176 (‘Overglazed “Overlay”’)
HK$16,250

Blue enamel on colourless glaze on porcelain; with a convex lip and recessed flat foot; moulded with a continuous design of what are probably intended to be a chrysanthemum and a begonia growing from a rocky ground with two bats flying overhead; the relief all painted blue; the interior unglazed
Jingdezhen, 1790–1820
Height: 6.9 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.70/1.22 cm
Stopper: stained bone

Provenance:
Reif Collection
Christie’s, New York, 18 October 1993, lot 32

Published:
Kleiner 1995, no. 233
Treasury 6, no. 1176

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

As an unmarked, mid-Qing porcelain snuff bottle, this might have been difficult to date except for one vital clue: It is another of the group that is copying glass overlay—not only glass overlay, but a particular group of glass overlay wares that we know to have been produced for the court during the Qianlong reign, probably its latter part, although that remains unproven. The glass bottles from which the inspiration for this group of porcelains was derived are exemplified in these auctions by Sale 1, lot 48 and lot 168 in the present sale. The porcelain versions usually imitate the blue and red glass overlays, but they are also known with gold-enamel relief that does not seem to have a source in glass wares (see Sale 3, lot 117).

If we had no knowledge of the well-known group of porcelain bottles copying glass overlays, it would be easy to miss the significance of this bottle. It is not as readily recognizable as a copy of an imperial overlay bottle, nor is its shape taken from that group of glass bottles. However, the style and the use of heavy blue enamel without any other colour link it incontrovertibly to the porcelain group, and thereby to the palace glass bottles. Once that connection is made, we can date the piece with relative accuracy. Let us first assume that a small innovative group such as this would probably not be continued as a standard type over a long period. They would seem to offer no particular aesthetic advantage over the original glass overlays, though their manufacture from moulds was less laborious. The entire group arose, we suspect, as one manifestation of the Qianlong emperor’s late burst of creative activity in discovering new types of snuff bottle and, in particular, developing the snuff-bottle production potential of Jingdezhen. We can see from other ceramic forms that few of these imitative attempts survived much beyond his reign; they form a minor part of the on-going vital ceramic evolution from the Yongzheng to the Daoguang reigns. Although our stated dating range is conservatively broad, we suspect that all of these porcelain copies of palace glass overlay bottles actually date from the last decade or so of the Qianlong emperor’s life and the very early years of the Jiaqing reign, and may not have continued into the nineteenth century at all.

 

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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