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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 34 

Lot 34

Lot 34
Treasury 6, no. 1111 (‘Wonderful Lines’)

Sapphire-blue, turquoise-blue, and gold enamel on copper, with gold; with a flat lip and flat foot; painted on each main side in gold regular script with poetic inscriptions, each preceded by leaf-shaped seal inscribed in regular script Baishi shanren 白石山人 (‘White-stone hermit’), and each followed by an oval seal, one reading, Jixiang 吉祥 (‘Auspicious’), the other Ruyi 如意 (‘May your wishes come true’), both in seal script; the interior covered with a patchy, pale-turquoise-blue enamel; the exposed metal lip with traces of original gilding
Probably Beijing, 1750–1820
Height: 5.39 cm
Mouth/lip: 1.4/1.7 cm
Stopper: coral; turquoise finial; walrus-ivory collar

Bob C. Stevens
Sotheby’s, New York, 25 June 1982, lot 210
Eric Young
Sotheby’s, London, 3 March 1987, lot 68

Stevens 1976, no. 990
Treasury 6, no. 1111

The gold characters of the inscription are badly worn, but it they have left their traces etched into the surface. The etching is so crisp and even that it gives the initial impression that it was first engraved and then filled with gold; however, high-powered magnification reveals that it was the gold enamel itself that etched the surface. It is a generally very precise chemical etching in which the gold enamel follows even the tiny lines left by single wayward hairs of the calligrapher's brush. In places where thicker gold has eaten tiny craters into the blue enamel, however, the effect is less felicitous.

The inscription followed by the jixiang seal reads:


I was born on the waters of the Pearl River.
This year the water is clearer than last year.
The Sea Pearl Temple on the right, fish pearls on the left,
Numberless people have come to view the bright moon.
Written on the spur of the moment

This poem was composed by He Mengyao 何夢瑤 (1693 – 1783), a native of Nanhai 南海, Guangdong, just southwest of Guangzhou. A jinshi of 1730, He held office in Guangxi and the northeast but is remembered most for his voluminous writings on medicine and mathematics. The notation ‘written on the spur of the moment’ was probably added by the designer of the bottle to supply the two characters he needed to fill out the column.

The other poem was written in 745 by Li Bo 李白. The subject is the loneliness of palace ladies who are neglected by the emperor:


The sky turns and the Northern Dipper hangs over a southern loft.
The golden room is empty; only fireflies flit about.
The moon's rays reach almost to Changmen Palace,
Declaring the sorrows of [those who reside] deep in the palace precincts.
Wonderful lines

This combination of poems, one by a famous Tang poet, the other by an official, doctor, and poet who lived a thousand years later than the other, is intriguing. Nothing about this bottle forces us to consider a palace-workshop origin, but there is probably no reason to seize upon the presence of a poem by He Mengyao to propose slapping a made-in-Guangdong label on it.

Judged on its own merits, regardless of its origins, it is a rare and lovely bottle. The intense, sapphire-blue ground combines with a shape that is ideally comfortable in the hand while being capacious enough to provide a fine ‘canvas’ for the poetic sentiments; the characters are still clearly legible, even where the gold has worn away and left only the etched remains of the brushstrokes.


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


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=2284&exhibition=17&ee_lang=eng


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Hugh Moss |