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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 15 

Lot 15

Lot 15
Treasury 6, no. 1188 (‘High-Quality Fragrance’)

Colourless glaze on cobalt on porcelain; with a slightly convex lip and recessed circular panels on each main side; painted in underglaze blue on one side with a man holding a qin walking along a path away from a tree from whose right side half a building projects, a mountain rising above the misty middle ground, the other side with a single figure standing in a similarly composed and equally sketchy landscape, without the qin or the house, the panels surrounded by four flying bats and formalized clouds; the neck with a band of formalized lingzhi; the lip glazed; the interior unglazed 
Jingdezhen, 1780–1830
Height: 6.52 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.68/1.26 cm
Stopper: Colourless glaze on cobalt on porcelain; painted with a formalized flower head and inscribed in regular script Zhixing hualu shui 質興花露水 (‘Zhixing eau de toilette’)

Robert Hall (1990)  

Hall 1990, no. 68
Treasury 6, no. 1188

If all porcelain came from the same kiln at Jingdezhen, we might date this to the mid- to late nineteenth century, but the reality is not so simple: what may appear late in style compared to some wares could also be simply the product of a lesser kiln working earlier. After all, there were hundreds of private potteries at Jingdezhen. In this case, there are several factors that suggest this might be an early-nineteenth-century bottle made for the growing popular market for porcelain snuff bottles. Sale 9, lot 136, helps to confirm this identification, as does the one in the Bragge Collection pictured in Treasury 6, no. 1189, which was collected in England prior to 1876.

Unglazed interiors are found occasionally through the nineteenth century, but other than with the wares of Wang Bingrong 王炳榮, they are very much the exception to the rule, whereas in the Jiaqing period the opposite was true, suggesting that this bottle was made before the glazed interior had again become standard.

The fact that the European watch shape upon which the form of this bottle is based inspired other mid-Qing snuff bottle forms also permits a dating range centred on the Jiaqing reign, although the shape by no means fell out of use after that period. Sale 9, lot 136, adding watch faces to the watch form, confirms the inspiration for this shape.

There is also something about the style of the bats and clouds that would accord with Jiaqing popular wares in famille-rose enamels. Certainly, the neck border of formalized lingzhi-heads still retains a sense of easy legibility that it began to lose during the Daoguang period.

There is one other reason to suggest it might be from early in the century. It is the only bottle we have encountered that is fired on spurs on its side. There are three distinct spur-marks on one main-side panel. This would be an unlikely method of firing a bottle if it was made after Jingdezhen had been making porcelain snuff bottles for a wide public market for many years, during the course of which it would have developed a number of more efficient ways to fire bottles. It would be more likely to happen at the beginning of the evolution of ceramic bottles for non-imperial demand.

The stopper is almost certainly from later in the century; it is not the original and differs from the one the bottle had in a previous publication. Zhixing can be a person’s name, but it might be a company name, as well. If the stopper was originally for a eau de toilette bottle, it was later outfitted with a cork, which it retains, and pierced for a spoon. On the other hand, the fragrance of snuff was a key factor to connoisseurs, so there is a slight chance that this stopper was for a snuff bottle that held a brand named after a perfume.

Another blue-and-white bottle, apparently from the same mould but with a different design, was offered in Taipei (Unique Art Auction), 23 October 1999, lot 801, and others are known, as well.


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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