Lot 87 Lot 87 Lot 87 Lot 88 Lot 88 Lot 88 Lot 88

photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 88 

Lot 88

Lot 88
Treasury 6, no. 1070 (‘East Meets West’)

Famille rose enamels on translucent white glass; with a flat lip and slightly recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding flattened foot rim, with raised rounded-rectangular panels on each of the four sides; painted on each of the main-side panels with a young Chinese woman in landscape, one standing beside a stream holding a fish suspended from a looped reed, the other holding a basket of silk skeins, the narrow-side panels each painted in ruby pink with European buildings in landscape, the panels surrounded by scrolling formalized floral design in brown on a yellow ground; the neck with a band of pendant plantain leaves, the foot inscribed in blue regular script Qianlong nian zhi 乾隆年製 (‘Made in the Qianlong era’)
Imperial, palace workshops, Beijing, 1736–1760
Height: 6.3 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.72/1.32 cm
Stopper: gilt bronze, chased with a formalized floral design

Sotheby’s, London, 24 June 1975, lot 390 and colour frontispiece (wrongly catalogued as bearing the mark Qianlong yuzhi)
Sidney A. Levine
Sotheby’s New York (PB 84), 11 October 1979, lot 33
Belfort Collection (1986)

JICSBS, December 1975, p. 9, fig. 31
Art at Auction, 1974–75, p. 392
The Snuff Bottle Review, no. 1 (1976), p. 44
JICSBS, December 1977, p. 35
Art at Auction, 1979–1980, p. 425
JICSBS, September 1979, p. 35, top-right
Jutheau 1980, pp. 78–79 and dust jacket cover
Très précieuses tabatières chinoises, p. 13, no. 146
JICSBS, June 1981, p. 29
Connaissance des arts, July 1981, p. 92
Arts of Asia, September–October 1982, p. 149
The Snuff Bottle Review, March 1983, p. 8
JICSBS, Winter-Spring 1983, p.29, fig. 5
Kleiner 1987, no. 12
Kleine Schätze aus China 1993, p. 4
Kleiner 1994a, p. 14, fig. 2.1
Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 13
Treasury 6, no. 1070

L’Arcade Chaumet, Paris, June 1982
Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum of Singapore, November 1994–February 1995

Like so many palace snuff bottles from the eighteenth century, this was made as part of a series. As befits highly artistic wares, and in common with the majority of palace enamels on glass, porcelain, and metal from the Kangxi period into the 1760s, although the subjects in a series may be similar, the compositions are never repeated from object to object. This was true also of the series of yellow-ground double gourds represented by the famous ‘Barbara Hutton Gourd’ in Sale 8.

The wares in the present group are distinguished by their shape, size, diagonally slanting plantain-leaf neck bands, formalized floral designs, ruby-pink narrow-side panels of European subjects juxtaposed with the Chinese women on the main panels, and the small, neatly drawn marks (a standard of early-Qianlong production).

Two from the series are still in the imperial collection, one in Taipei (Chang Lin-sheng 1991, no. 29; Guoli Gugong bowuyuan and Hou Yi-li 2012, p. 126, no. II-026), the other in Beijing (Xia Gengqi 1995, no. 103, and Li Jiufang 2002, no. 16), and two more are published in Geng Baochang and Zhao Binghua 1992,nos. 105 and 106. One more has recently been excavated from a tomb reputedly in the environs of Beijing; it was shown to Hugh Moss, who noted that it was in very distressed condition from burial but its membership in the series remained undoubted.

The Chinese figures on this series all appear to be romanticized peasant women, perhaps influenced by the aristocratic European fascination during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with peasant life, idealized illustrations of which were prominent among the European prints and designs that influenced imperial arts at both Guangzhou and Beijing during the eighteenth century. A related but much more elaborate and larger example is Sale 4, lot 38, with its European figures.

The most obvious European influence here is found in the ruby-pink panels of landscape on the narrow-sides, not only in the subject matter, which is obviously Western, but in the style of painting, with its realistic shading and use of body colour as much as line to define form. Alerted to this, the viewer notes that the same is evident in the Chinese scenes. Although the faces of the women are defined by iron-red lines, they are also delicately shaded, and the folds in the clothing are entirely defined by body colour and chiaroscuro rather than by filled outlines. The background foliage and grassy ground are also painted entirely in the European style.

Under magnification, it is apparent that the enamels here have the characteristic problems for the period, although strangely in this case the green, which is so often a problem, has fired well; on the other hand, the black, which is usually less of a problem, is pitted, perhaps due to the fact that it finds rare use here as a broad filler rather than as an outline. None of this is obvious to the naked eye, but is worth mentioning because it is useful in identifying early palace enamels.

It takes no magnification to remark the presence here of a common problem with Qing enamels on glass: a slight list. The work seems to have reached a temperature in the muffle kiln that caused the glass bottle to slump slightly towards one corner, setting it at a rather drunken angle when placed naturally on its foot rim. This can only have happened when the enamels were added, as the glassmaker and the lapidary who created the initial form would have been able to correct for any irregularity at the time of production.

The depictions here may be European in some details, but the general theme is thoroughly Chinese.


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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