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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 53 

Lot 53

Lot 53
Treasury 6, no. 1382 (‘Tribute from Afar’)

Colourless glaze on cobalt on porcelain; with a convex lip and recessed, slightly concave foot surrounded by a protruding flat foot rim; painted under the glaze with a continuous scene of a rocky landscape with eight foreign tribute bearers and various animals forming part of their tribute, including a Buddhist lion, a tapir, a white elephant, a tiger, and another mythical beast, the figures holding, among other things, a rhinoceros horn, a branch of coral, a ruyi sceptre, a bowl of patterned spherical objects resembling small brocade balls, a flaming pearl, a furled canopy, and a bolt of material; the neck painted with a band of formalized lingzhi; the foot unglazed; the lip, inner neck, and interior glazed
Jingdezhen, 1840–1870
Height: 8.03 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.99/1.59 cm
Stopper: colourless glaze on cobalt on porcelain, painted with a formalized shou (‘longevity’) character, made from half a bead; stained ivory collar

Gerd Lester (1986)

Antiques World, September 1980, p. 67
Treasury 6, no. 1382

This elegant balance between a cylindrical and an ovoid form is a standard of the mid-nineteenth century, and many bottles of this shape are decorated with similar scenes of tribute bearers (see Sale 1, lot 95). They occur decorated in underglaze-blue, sometimes in combination with underglaze red, and sometimes, although rarely, in blue-and-white with added enamels (doucai 鬥彩).

Ault believes that, despite some with Qianlong marks, all date from the Xianfeng reign or later. See Ault 1993, p. 9, fig. 70, where a bottle with a Xianfeng reign mark is illustrated; another example, rather more cylindrical in shape, is in Geng 1992, as no. 228, where it is dated to the Xianfeng period, although no reign mark is mentioned in the caption. The neck design on the present bottle is one Ault considers as dating from the Daoguang or later, and indeed we see no reason why this design should not have begun during the Daoguang reign and continued into the Xianfeng (and perhaps thereafter). Even had we not been influenced by Ault, we suspect we would have given these bottles a Daoguang or Xianfeng date based upon their painting style and the qualities of the materials. Snuff bottles bearing fake Qianlong marks certainly began to appear during the Daoguang period; thus, the existence of the occasional Qianlong-marked example among bottles of this type would not be an impossibility.

That the subject of tribute-bearers in general remained popular in the Xianfeng period is proven by another bottle Ault illustrated from his own collection (later in the Bloch Collection: Sale 2, lot 106), of a different composition of tribute bearers. It bears the Xianfeng mark. If we had no marks or stylistic considerations to go by, we could at least confirm that the type was in existence by the middle years of the Guangxu period, for by 1896 an example had entered an English collection (Huish 1896, fig. 6).

The painting of this design is often of superior quality, as it is here, and the series represents one of the more intriguing and consistently well-painted group of underglaze-decorated bottles of the mid-nineteenth century. Fortunately, it was, perhaps for these reasons, a popular model, oft-repeated, so a collector wishing to acquire one has only to wait patiently.


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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