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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 10 

Lot 10

Lot 10
Treasury 6, no. 1377 (‘Proffering the Fungus’)
HK$100,000

Colourless glaze on cobalt on porcelain; with a slightly convex lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a wide, flat, slightly inward-sloping footrim; painted under the glaze with a scene concentrated on approximately half of the cylindrical form, of a Western man standing in front of a vase-shaped woven basket and offering a lingzhi to a wanton young woman seated on one of two perforated ornamental rocks in a garden setting with bamboo growing nearby and clouds above; the foot inscribed in underglaze-blue regular script, Chenghua nian zhi, (‘Made during the Chenghua period’); the lip, inner neck, and interior glazed
Jingdezhen, 1830–1880
Height: 5.1 cm
Mouth/lip: 1.95/3.00 cm
Stopper: amethyst; gilt-silver collar

Provenance:
Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd. (1994)

Published:
Treasury 6, no. 1377

This bottle probably depicts a Western couple, coupling the exotic and the erotic in a way that is common in many cultures, including the Chinese. The woman, seemingly eager to disrobe for her ‘suitor’, confirms that foreigners are barbarians, uncouth, uneducated, and oversexed. This interpretation, however, still leaves some puzzling questions. Why, for instance, does the foreigner offer the woman a lingzhi? To a Westerner, the symbolism would be meaningless (‘Fancy a nice fungus, my dear?’); perhaps what we have here is the common enough phenomenon of a Chinese porcelain painter misunderstanding the design he was given to copy (perhaps featuring a nosegay).

The wide-mouthed snuff pot may have been an innovation of the Daoguang period, but it certainly survived into the second half of the century. The use of the Chenghua mark is typical of the use of apocryphal marks from the first half of the nineteenth century onwards, although as a fifteenth century reign mark it would not have been intended to deceive anyone with the slightest knowledge of Chinese culture, since snuff was unheard of in the fifteenth century. It may have been suggested by the mode of decoration, since the Chenghua period was renowned for its imperial blue-and-white wares, and from the early Qing period onwards this reign name was invoked frequently as a sort of ‘trade mark’ for such wares.

 

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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