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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 15 

Lot 15

Lot 15
Treasury6, no. 1160 (‘Ancient Moon Porcelain’)

Famille rose enamels on colourless glaze on porcelain; with a slightly convex lip and flat foot; painted with a continuous design of the Eight Buddhist Emblems set in pairs between tasselled, beaded cords suspended from a pale-blue band around the lower neck, with two pairs of emblems on each main side; the foot inscribed in iron red regular script Guyue xuan (‘Ancient Moon Pavilion’); the glaze extending to the upper part of the interior of the lip; the interior unglazed
Imperial kilns, Jingdezhen, 1770–1799
Height: 6.09 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.84/1.62 cm
Stopper: coral; silver collar

Stempel Collection
Sotheby’s New York (PB 84), 11 October 1979, lot 86

Hong Kong 1977, p. 61, fig. 120
Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 149
Treasury6, no. 1160

Hong Kong Museum of Art, October 1977
Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum of Singapore, November 1994–February 1995

The Guyue mark is found most often on enamelled glass wares made for the court from 1767 (when the Guyue xuan was completed; see lot 147 in this auction) to 1799. Some were made at the palace workshops, others, we believe, at Yangzhou. Occasionally, glass bottles without enamelling were also ordered to bear the Guyue xuan mark (see Sale 2, lot 57 and Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 346); the same is true of enamelled porcelain, and the present bottle is one of these rare cases. The similarity between enamelled glass and porcelain is so great that it is perhaps surprising that the mark appears so often on enamelled glass wares and so seldom on enamelled porcelain. For whatever reason, it is possible that only a single set of enamelled porcelain bottles bearing the mark was made, for the known pieces appear to be very closely copied from the same design. One source of inspiration may have been the palace-enamelled glass bottle that was sold at Sotheby’s, Olympia, 13 June 2003, lot 812. (Another, but with a different configuration of the emblems unlikely to have been the direct inspiration for the present example, was in the Exstein Collection, Christie’s, New York, 21 March 2002, lot 53.) For another of the porcelain versions of the design, differing from the present example only in the minutest details, see Sotheby’s, New York, 26 November 1991, lot 68. A third is published in Holden 1994, no. 99 One other unusual porcelain snuff bottle with a Guyue xuan mark is in the Bloch Collection (no. 1436), but it is from later in the dynasty.

It is unlikely that the Guyue xuan mark would have continued in use after the Guyue xuan itself was obliterated when changes were made in the Yuanming yuan and its subsidiary gardens in 1810; indeed, the mark was surely retired after the death of the Qianlong emperor in 1799. As a rule, studio names are associated with individuals, and the more important the individual, the less likely it is that a descendent or anyone else would immediately adopt the same studio name. Only later in the Qing dynasty, when such names may have become of interest to collectors, particularly foreigners, would the studio name of a prominent individual have been used again, and then it would be to respond to the demands of the marketplace rather than to denote a particular building.

The use of the tasselled, beaded cord design relates the decoration to palace enamels on glass from Beijing production bearing the Guyue xuan designation.

The Eight Buddhist Emblems are auspicious signs said to have appeared in the footprints of the living Buddha. They are: the wheel of the law, a conch shell, a canopy, an umbrella, a lotus, a jar, fish, and a mystic or eternal knot. The wheel of the law represents the encompassing nature of Buddhism and the religion’s prosperity through its continuous rotation. The conch symbolizes the widespread influence of Buddhism because it produces a sound that reaches far and wide when one blows it. The canopy is evolved from a so-called victorious banner used in India. It signifies Buddhism’s victory over evil forces. The umbrella stands for Buddhism’s power of protection. The lotus epitomizes purity since it emerges unsullied from the mud. It is emblematic of the attainment of a spiritual realm where one’s mind is free from worries and evil thoughts. The jar suggests abundance because it can hold a large quantity of objects or be filled with liquid to its brim. The fish evokes the story of how the Buddha transformed himself into a fish to save the needy. The knot is configured into a series of loops that show neither a beginning nor an end and is, therefore, associated with the idea of continuity. In Chinese decorative art, however, local variations sometimes appear to reflect Chinese symbolism. The fish, for instance, would more readily have evoked the concept of abundance to a Chinese audience, based on a play on words. Sometimes, the fish are doubled, to stand for marital harmony. On this bottle, the lotus has been replaced by a peony, emblematic of wealth, which is an odd substitution given the Buddhist subject matter.


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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