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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1052 

Lot 1052
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Lot 1052
Treasury 6, no. 1122 (‘Swaying in the Breeze’)
HK$162,500

Transparent turquoise-blue, purplish-brown, yellow, brown, emerald-green, sapphire-blue, and opaque white enamel on silver; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flat foot rim; decorated with a partially filled continuous design of a flowering magnolia tree and orchids growing from a rocky ground with two natural rock sculptures rising from it, all set against a formalized diaper ground of coins made up of what appear to be petals
Possibly imperial, 1780–1911
Height: 7.7 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.6/2.2 cm
Stopper: coral; pearl finial; transparent turquoise-blue, sapphire-blue, and purple enamel on silver; an original for this type of bottle

Provenance:
Alex S. Cussons
Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd, (1996)

Published:
Treasury 6, no. 1122

This is of the same style of shaolan 燒藍 enamelling as Sale 7, lot 16 and is of a similar technique to cloisonné enamels, although it is only partially filled with enamels. The enamels themselves are the thin, transparent ones referred to under Sale 7, lot 16, with the addition of an unusual white enamel.

Bottles of this group are sufficiently rare that we have very little supporting information by which to judge them. None is inscribed or dated. They are generally considered late Qing, which may be appropriate, but this sort of enamelling was certainly produced at or for the court during the late Qianlong era; thus, they may have been produced either at the palace workshops or at Guangzhou for the court during the mid-Qing period. Another link with the court, although it is not associated with any particular date, is found in the diaper ground. Precisely this pattern was used at the palace on cloisonné wares as early as the Kangxi period. It underlies a design of colourful butterflies on a magnificently exuberant Kangxi incense burner with elephant-head handles and supported on four ‘legs’ in the form of foreign tribute-bearers in the imperial collection in Beijing (Yang Boda 2002 – 2004, vol. 5,pl. 189). Judged independently, this particular bottle might considered to be a late-Qianlong palace product, but it is part of a small group of similar bottles of identical form, surely from the same workshop at the same time, that appear more likely to be late Qing. (One with panels of auspicious, scholarly objects in foliate panels was in Unique Art Auction, Taipei, 23 October 1999, lot 748, and another with an overall floral decoration made its appearance in Robert C. Eldred Co., 16 August 1973, lot 69).

This is one of the most impressive of the group. It seems to reflect the trend in the late Qianlong for partial cloisonné, as in Sale 5, lot 55: the ground is left as un-enamelled silver, which adds a nice textural dimension by producing a contrast between the now-dull silver ground and the shiny enamels. Whether this is an immediate reflection of the Qianlong trend or one more distant in time is not so certain, however. The workmanship is unsurpassed in the art form; the elegant composition is very painterly, considering the constraints of the medium. It is one of the rare bottles from the entire group that includes an opaque white in the palette, used mixed with other colours in the tradition of cloisonné enamels on porcelain. The colouring is very well conceived.

This stopper did not, if memory serves, come with the bottle, but was matched up by Moss. It could not have fitted it better, however, and we are tempted in this case to propose the possibility of long-lost companions reunited through a strange quirk of fortune. If it was not made originally for this bottle, it must surely have been made for one like it.

 

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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