Lot 43 Lot 44 Lot 45 Lot 46 Lot 47 Lot 48 Lot 49

photographer E-Yaji.
Snuff Bottles from the Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part II  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 23 November 2010: Lot 46 

Lot 46

   

Lot 46
Treasury 6, no. 1264

Mao Chun’s Curly Whiskers

Famille rose enamels on colourless glaze on porcelain; with convex lip and recessed flat circular foot surrounded by a convex circular footrim; painted with a continuous design of the knight-errant known as Curly-Whiskers holding his donkey outside a residence in which Li Jing and the courtesan Hongfu nü are seen, 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 iron-red enamel, Maochun yazhi (‘Elegantly made by Maochun’); the lip, inner neck, and interior glazed
Jingdezhen, 1800–1830
Height: 7.7 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.80/1.49 cm
Stopper: mother-of-pearl; glass collar

Lot 46 Provenance:
China Guardian, 20 April 1996, lot 1903
Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd (1999)

Published:
Treasury 6, no. 1264

Lot 46 Commentary
Maochun is the name of a private Jingdezhen enameller of extraordinary talent who, unfortunately, does not reveal his family name on any of his works. There are only a few bottles known bearing his signature, mostly in famille rose enamels, although two are blue-and-white. Maochun’s subject matter was somewhat limited, and this bottle and lot 47 (Treasury 6, no. 1265) are of the same subject and composition. Given the unusual artistic quality of his paintings and the fact that he signed his name, it is perhaps strange that he appears to have constantly repeated only a few compositions. Repetition is hardly surprising for a Jingdezhen craftsman. What is surprising is that he signed his works at all at a time when no other enamellers did.

Other snuff bottles by him are in Butterfield & Butterfield, 4 November 1993, lot 1049; Geng 1992,no. 175; Shanghai International Commodity Auction Co., 30 November 1999, lot A108 (two bottles now split between the Franz Collection and the Marakovic Collection, the former piece with a rare variant of the signature in seal script, also found on one bottle in the Bloch Collection, no. 1266); and Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 3 May 1995, lot 632.

We now think that to say Maochun worked in the second half of the nineteenth century is to place him too late. If we isolate just the window scene here, with its gilt detail on brown, the style of painting, and the quality of the enamels, it is typically Jiaqing. The elaborate bands around the neck and shoulder are also more typical of the mid-Qing than of the later nineteenth century, when elaborate borders had run their course and were largely either radically simplified or abandoned. The rare blue-and white variations represented by the next example, lot 47, Treasury 6, no. 1265, would also be anomalous for the later nineteenth century. It too has elaborate neck bands, carefully detailed and symbolically entirely legible, which is atypical for the later Qing. Although the interior of this bottle is glazed, lot 47 (Treasury 6, no. 1265) has only a splash of glaze at the base. By the Daoguang period, the insides of non-compressed forms were fully glazed as standard, whereas in the Jiaqing period the shift from unglazed interiors to glazed ones was not yet complete. The last nail in the coffin of the late-Qing attribution is the fact that all of Maochun’s works are taken from popular legends or novels; these are typically Jiaqing as subject matter and become rarer after the beginning of the Daoguang period.

Fortunately, the proof of an earlier date was published in Geng and Zhao 1992, no. 151 (subsequently sold in Hanhai, Beijing, 11 December 2000, lot 1514; also illustrated in Song Haiyang 2005, p. 40). Its shape, subject and style are identical to this bottle and it has similarly elaborate borders top and bottom. It can only have come from the same hand. The bottle bears a four-character iron-red regular script Jiaqing reign mark and is correctly dated by Geng and Zhao to the Jiaqing reign. Oddly, they dated the bottle with Maochun’s signature that they illustrate a few pages further on to the Tongzhi reign – they did not notice the connection between the two.

This also provides some clues as to what Maochun was doing at Jingdezhen. Assuming that the reign-marked example indicates an imperial product, what we appear to have here is an early instance where we can reasonably assume that an enameller from the imperial kilns also produced private wares under his own name. Whether he did so at the same time and in the same kilns or moved on to work privately afterwards is another matter. What is obvious, however, is that the works under his name are rather more impressive than the one with the imperial reign mark. The gold detailing of the woodwork in the house is absent from the imperial version, and the enamelling slightly less detailed and careful. This suggests that he was originally an imperial enameller and subsequently branched out on his own. If he had been co-opted to the imperial kilns because of the quality of his private work, it seems unlikely that he would have then allowed his standards to fall off a little. This hypothesis is confirmed by the bottle in the Marakovic Collection that is obviously by him but bears an apocryphal iron-red Yongzheng reign mark. We believe it more likely that the use of Yongzheng reign marks became popular during the Daoguang period, suggesting that Maochun worked at Jingdezhen producing initially the occasional imperial product, and then went on to work private between the Jiaqing and the early Daoguang eras.

See lot 47 (Treasury 6, no. 1265) for the story of Curly Whiskers.

 

Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=856&exhibition=6&ee_lang=eng


  
  

Lot 43 Lot 44 Lot 45 Lot 46 Lot 47 Lot 48 Lot 49

 

Hugh Moss |