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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 88 

Lot 88

Lot 88
Treasury 6, no. 1150 (‘Tang Ying’s Response’)
HK$6,280,000

Famille rose enamels on colourless glaze on porcelain; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flattened foot rim; painted on each main side with a foliate panel, one with a waterside landscape scene with pine and other trees, and a mountain stream ending as a waterfall between rocky cliffs, in front of which a boatman guides a scholar in his skiff towards a country residence, with clouds drifting across the scene, the other side with a poem inscribed in clerical script followed by the seal Qianlong chenhan 乾隆宸翰 (‘Imperial calligraphy of the Qianlong emperor’) in positive seal script, the panels surrounded by a formalized floral design on a pale blue ground engraved with a tighter, formalized floral scroll; a raised gold enamelled band around the base of the neck; the neck and outer foot rim with formalized floral designs on an iron-red ground with a similarly tight, formalized floral scroll painted in gold enamel; the foot inscribed in bluish-black seal script on a transparent, turquoise-blue enamel, Qianlong nian zhi 乾隆年製 (‘Made during the Qianlong era’); the lip, neck-rim, and foot rim all painted gold; the interior glazed, with the inside of the neck painted in turquoise-blue enamel
Attributable to Tang Ying 唐英, imperial kilns, Jingdezhen, 1736–1756
Height: 4.34 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.82/1.22 cm
Stopper: aquamarine

Provenance:
Robert Hall (1996)
Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd (1996)

Published:
JICSBS, Autumn 1998, p. 8, fig 20
Treasury 6, no. 1150

This is one of a pair of identical bottles from a single source (the other is in a private collection in Hong Kong), not unusual in imperial ceramic production. They are in extraordinary condition, with only the slightest evidence of having been used, and we may assume that they remained protected in the imperial collection for long enough to become highly valued as collector’s items and placed beyond use. They represent the zenith of enamelling on porcelain in the snuff-bottle world and can be associated with Tang Ying, the supervisor of the imperial kilns during the early Qianlong period and probably the 1740s.

They also introduce a new method of decorating with enamels: a monochrome enamel ground is engraved with a pattern that allows the white underlayer of enamel to show through and contribute to the design. This was apparently one of many innovations from Tang Ying’s superintendence of the imperial kilns. We can find nothing prior to the early Qianlong period employing this technique.

The mark here was apparently written with black or dark-blue enamel on a transparent enamel ground, although the darker pigment has eaten into the enamel to such an extent that it gives the impression of being beneath it. Stylistically, the bottle is typical of Guangzhou, and the seal-script mark is unlikely for a Beijing palace enamel, where regular script was the standard calligraphy for marks; it is also very poorly drawn, suggesting that the calligrapher was not used to writing such marks. The bottle may be an early-Qianlong order from Guangzhou.

While it is true that the Qianlong chenhan seal is rare on snuff bottles, it does appear quite frequently on other ceramics produced for the emperor—some bearing his poems, and most associated with Tang Ying’s directorship of the imperial kilns. Qianlong chenhan appears four times on one piece in the imperial collection, albeit separated into two seals, one above the other, which the relative surplus of space allowed. Another pair of vases has the seals after an imperial poem written in 1736. The Qianlong chenhan seal can be associated with Jingdezhen production in 1742 and 1743. In private correspondence with Peter Lam, we are informed that the archives show that six pairs of wall vases (sometimes referred to as ‘sedan-chair vases’ because they were sometimes hung on the wall of an enclosed sedan-chair to hold flowers) were ordered with imperial poems and this seal. One is in the National Palace Museum.      

The poem reads

鳴蟬拘疏枝,白舫泛清瀨。風露曉寒輕,極目寥天外。
Crying cicadas clutch the sparse branches.
A white boat sails leisurely on the clear rapids.
The wind and dew, with morning, are chill and light.
I stretch my gaze beyond the empty sky.

 

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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