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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 49 

Lot 49

Lot 49
Treasury 6, no. 1388 (‘Plum-Blossom Reminder’)

Colourless glaze on cobalt and copper on porcelain; with a convex lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a convex footrim; painted under the glaze with a continuous scene of Meng Haoran riding his donkey across a stone bridge beneath a rocky overhang with a pine tree growing from it, followed by his attendant carrying a branch of blossoming prunus; the foot, lip, inner neck, and interior glazed
Jingdezhen, 1830–1890
Height: 6.7 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.6/1.1 cm
Stopper: carnelian; vinyl collar

Robert Kleiner (1991)

Treasury 6, no. 1388

As neck borders became more and more meaningless through repetition in the mid-nineteenth century, one response was to replace them with single-line borders, and then with no borders. Both options had been used earlier, perhaps dictated by certain designs or the preferences of particular kilns, but it is significant that of the bottles we have selected (entirely on other criteria) as dating from the mid- to late nineteenth century, a significant proportion have single-line neck borders or no neck decoration at all..

The subject here is the popular one of the Tang poet Meng Haoran and his beloved plum blossoms (see under Sale 4, lot 108). There are similar depictions of Huang Chengyan (known to most Chinese for his role in Romance of the Three Kingdoms) crossing a stone bridge in a somewhat similar composition, but Huang’s attendant carries a gourd of wine rather than a branch of prunus. Both subjects were repeated by several of the artists painting inside snuff bottles around Beijing at the end of the nineteenth century.

This is a charming scene, unusually depicted not only with delicate colouring and shading of the two colours, but with an unusual, very angular rockwork style that is impressive. Although the upper area fades to white, as does so much of the design here, the design is obviously intended to be continuous, as is the ground on which the path is set, and Meng is only saved from having to endlessly stroll around the same little patch of path by the clever device of having the approach to the bridge come from behind the cliff behind him, while the other side feeds into the foreground hummock. It is one of many ways of dealing with visual logic on a cylindrical bottle with, in this case, only a fraction over seven horizontal centimetres to play with.


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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