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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 29 

Lot 29


Lot 29
Treasury 6, no. 1363

Orchids and Roses

Yellowish-white glaze on porcelain; with a slightly convex lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding convex footrim; carved on one main side with flowering orchids and on the other with a flowering rose bush, towards which a small butterfly flies down the tapering neck; the foot engraved in seal script, Yucheng; all exterior surfaces, except the footrim, covered with enamel; the interior unglazed
Li Yucheng, Jingdezhen, 1820–1870
Height: 7.08 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.70/1.52 cm
Stopper: coral; vinyl collar

Lot 29 Provenance:
Albert Pyke, Los Angeles (circa 1963)
Sydney L. Moss Ltd
Elizabeth and Ladislas Kardos
Sotheby’s, New York, 1 July 1985, lot 8

Connaissance des arts, November 1971, p. 109
Kleiner 1987, no. 239
Bloch Collection Poster (1987), reproduction of watercolour by Peter Stuart
Treasury 6, no. 1363

Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

Lot 29 Commentary
The scholarly taste of Li Yucheng is evident in his exquisitely well-carved design of roses on one side and orchids, a flower that represents the ideal scholar-gentleman, on the other. The floral design is related to that on the seal-ink box in the Baur Collection (Ayres 1974, vol. 4, Plate A661) and it exhibits a similar level of taste and carving skills.

The exact method of making this type of bottle probably varied, but seems to have begun with the usual two-part mould process. The formal integrity of the shape beneath the decoration suggests that the potters did not make a bottle with thick walls and carve out the relief design. It seems rather that they took a leather-hard porcelain form made from moulds and already finished as a shape, added porcelain to the body in the general configuration of the desired design, and then finished the detailing with carving tools. Fine lines, including inscriptions, could also be painted on with slip and a brush, allowing for greater brushwork fluency. It would also have been convenient for some details to be carved before they were applied to the body. In all likelihood, a combination of these methods would have been used, depending upon what was being depicted and how the carver preferred to work. The indications on this snuff bottle are that the design was largely built up with a number of separate pieces laid onto the surface.

A variety of rose called the yueji bears gorgeous blooms throughout the year. It is therefore emblematic of continuous prosperity. Here, in addition to this connotation, its attraction to the hovering butterfly is likened to the mutual affection between loving couples. The orchid (lan) plays the role of a rebus to impart a wish for male (nan) offspring.


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Hugh Moss |