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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 66 

Lot 66

Lot 66
Treasury 6, no. 1335 (‘Reinstated Taotie’)

Famille rose enamels on colourless glaze on porcelain; with a convex lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a flared, reticulated, convex foot rim, the shoulders with handles, pierced for cords, in the form of stylized animal heads; painted on one main side with Wang Xizhi 王羲之 leaning against a tree trunk, his attendant walking towards him holding a goose under one arm, and on the other with a scholar seated on the ground leaning against a boulder as his attendant brings him his qin to play; the foot, lip, inner neck, and interior glazed
Jingdezhen, 1821–1860
Height: 5.88 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.59/1.21 cm
Stopper: glass; glass finial

Private European collection
Sotheby’s, London, 7 June 1990, lot 8
Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 19 April 1992, lot 409

Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 152
Treasury 6, no. 1335

Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum of Singapore, November 1994–February 1995

Under Sale 7, lot 168, we discussed the misinterpretation of mask handles on some of the Daoguang-period bottles of this shape. Many of those bottles have bizarre handles resembling insects; however, the original intention was obviously understood by the enameller of this bottle, who has used gold enamel detail to transform the ambiguous shapes back into animal masks. The legs have again become a curly mane, and the eyes are back in the right place.

The subject matter here is the same as on the two blue-and-white versions (Sale 7, lots 18 and 116), as is the composition, endorsing the belief, yet again, that many different types of ware were all produced at the same kiln and to the same designs, taking advantage of the full range of ceramic possibilities. Whether or not that kiln was the imperial kiln we have no idea in this particular instance; the fact of a palace original inspiring the form need not imply an imperial product by the mid-nineteenth century, when kilns at Jingdezhen were open to any commercial possibilities. We suspect bottles of this form may date from the latter part of the reign rather than from the early years, but in any case a Daoguang date, or one very shortly thereafter, is reasonably certain.

The scenes represent the ideal literati life, with a scholar on one side seated in the countryside reflecting on this and that while his servant stands quietly behind him holding his wrapped qin in case he should feel moved to play, although it appears to be rather a short qin and he may have difficulty teasing a full range of notes out of it.

On the other side, the goose identifies the character leaning against the trunk of a tree as the famous calligrapher Wang Xizhi (321 – 379). Any scholar specifically associated with geese by this time is likely to be Wang. Because of his cultural status as one of the great heroes of calligraphy, he was frequently invoked among the literati in the decorative arts and almost constantly in their calligraphic art.

Two other bottles from the same series are in Sotheby’s, New York, 6 April 1990, lot 6, and Hall 2003, no.78.


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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