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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 98 

Lot 98

Lot 98
Treasury 6, no. 1127 (‘Southern Purse’)

Famille rose enamels on copper, with gold; with a flat lip; in the form of a purse, with metal loop handles at the shoulders and a ridge of metal dividing the bottle in two along the narrow sides; painted on each main side with panels of simulated fabric with a formalized floral design; the neck featuring a band of pendant formalized petals; the interior covered with white enamel; the exposed metal exhibiting some traces of original gilding
Guangzhou, 1710–1735
Height: 3.51 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.82/1.06
Stopper: chased metal                                                  

Robert Kleiner (1999)

Treasury 6, no. 1127

A series of pouch- or purse-shaped enamelled metal snuff bottles from Guangzhou was produced as a standard form from perhaps the late Kangxi period into the Qianlong reign. The majority appear to be early, suggesting that the vogue for them began to wane during the first half of the Qianlong period. As a rule, they are decorated with simulated textile designs, but since a textile can bear any sort of design, this was not in practice much of a restriction on the range of decorative subject matter. Although we are not sure if any early Guangzhou enamels were made for the court, that could have been the intention behind this series. We can be certain that at least one ended up in the imperial collection (a yellow-ground version with a floral design of the same form as this and lot 133 in the present auction, illustrated in Li Jiufang 2002, no. 137 and Yang Boda 2002 – 2004, vol. 6, p. 122, plate 185). The bottle in the imperial collection has the original beaded cords, although it is not certain whether they were added so that the bottle could actually hang from the belt, as is likely, or merely in order to better resemble the pouches that did. Purses or pouches of this form were a standard part of courtly paraphernalia and inspired snuff bottles made in the north, so there is no reason why they should not have similarly inspired southern production for the court. The fact that they bear no reign mark may be in part due to the slow process of introducing one as standard for southern production (none was established until some time during the Yongzheng reign), and in part to the fact that there is no obvious place to add one.

Among all such pouch-shaped bottles, this is likely to be among the earliest for two main reasons: The raised metal ridge dividing the two main sides echoes the obviously very early Sale 5, lot 13; and, save for the additional pink ground, the design is the typical black or sepia scrolling floral pattern found on many late-Kangxi Guangzhou enamel vessels (including snuff bottles). Here, the design is a slightly evolved version, enhanced with gold enamel details. The ground colour is of the rather dark, ruby-pink of the earliest enamels rather than the paler pink of later production. The darker pink remained an option in the fully mature Famille rose palette, but was used more for shading and emphasis in conjunction with a paler colour.

Another possible link to the early example of Sale 5, lot 13 is the loop handles for suspension cords, placed parallel to each other on each side of the neck. Loops of this kind appear on another pouch-form Guangzhou enamel, with a European subject, including a rather whimsical depiction of an angel or cherub (Sotheby’s, New York, 23 March 1998, lot 286). Another example is in Gillingham 1978, no. 112, with a fenghuang design on a black ground typical of the Yongzheng era. One more, also with the raised metal ridge that we have argued is indicative of early techniques and decorated with a likely imperial subject of typical Guangzhou-style chi dragons on a yellow ground, was published by Robert Kleiner (Robert Kleiner & Co. 1998, no. 70); this one further endorsing the possibility of products made to be sent to the emperor, whether or not specifically ordered by him.


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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