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photographer E-Yaji.
Snuff Bottles from the Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part II  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 23 November 2010: Lot 47 

Lot 47


Lot 47
Treasury 6, no. 1265

Blue Curly Whiskers

Colourless glaze on cobalt on porcelain; with a convex lip and recessed flat circular foot surrounded by a convex circular footrim; painted under the glaze with a continuous scene of the knight-errant Curly Whiskers holding his donkey outside a country residence in which Li Jing and the courtesan Hongfu nü are seen, the scene set between a base band of formalized lotus petals and an elaborate formalized floral neck and shoulder design based on lingzhi, with pendant ‘jewels’ and lotus-leaf lappets; the base inscribed in underglaze blue Maochun yazhi (‘Elegantly made by Maochun’); the lip and inner neck glazed; and with a single splash of glaze on the base of the interior
Jingdezhen, 1800–1830
Height: 7.58 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.72/1.40 cm
Stopper: colourless glaze on cobalt oxide on porcelain; painted with a landscape design with waterside houses and foreground trees; China, circa 1920–1940

Lot 47 Provenance:
Private collection
Hong Kong M & C Gallery, Hong Kong, July 2003
Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd, 2003

Treasury 6, no. 1265

Lot 47 Commentary
This is one of only two known blue-and-white bottles by Maochun; the other is unpublished (Hugh Moss Records).

The story concerns events at the end of the Sui dynasty (589–618), when the country was beset with political unrest and plans were afoot to overthrow the short-lived dynasty. One of the protagonists, Li Jing, paid a call on Yang Su, the haughty Minister of Works to the Sui emperor, and made a deep impression on Yang’s concubine. When Li returned to the inn where he was staying, she determined to leave Yang and followed him. Her family name was Zhang, but because she always carried a red fly whisk while attending Yang, she was nicknamed Hongfu nü (‘Girl with a Red Fly Whisk’). Li was happy to have her, and the two embarked on a journey to Taiyuan, where Li planned to see Li Shimin, son of the prefect of Taiyuan and a young man of great leadership potential. On the way, they checked into an inn at Lingshi. There, they met Zhang Zhongjian, a knight-errant with a curly beard, from which he derived his nickname. They discovered they shared common ideals and immediately became friends. At Taiyuan, Li Jing introduced Curly Whiskers to Li Shimin. Curly Whiskers was struck with awe by the exceptional demeanour and behaviour of this young man. He immediately gave all his wealth to Li Jing so Li could build up a military force to assist Li Shimin overthrow the Sui government. Li Shimin eventually became the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty, under the reign title Taizong (r. 627–649) and Li Jing rose to the position of a military minister.

Here we see Li Jing and Hongfu nü in the house, with Curly Whiskers outside ready to mount his donkey.

The interior here has a splash of glaze covering the base. Although it was partly in response to snuff connoisseurship that glazed interiors became popular during the early nineteenth century, the growing popularity of non-compressed forms may have been an additional factor. While compressed forms were made in two-part moulds and luted vertically, uncompressed forms were usually made differently, particularly with the range of wares with a cylindrical cross section. Many of those we have examined appear to have been worked up without a foot, allowing access to the interior; the foot was then luted on to complete the form. An interior glaze would seal any join on the interior, which is possibly why some bottles of this shape from the early nineteenth century have only the inner base glazed.

The stopper here, suitable as it is, is not the original. Early blue-and-white stoppers are quite rare. This was part of the Ko Collection hoard of spare stoppers and spoons probably made in the early twentieth century.


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