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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part III  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 25 May 2011: Lot 88 

Lot 88


Lot 88
Treasury 6, no. 1283

A blue and white porcelain ‘monkeys’ snuff bottle

(‘The Nineteenth Monkey’)

Colourless glaze on cobalt on porcelain; with a barely convex lip and recessed, slightly convex foot with a convex footrim; painted under the glaze with a continuous scene of eighteen monkeys in a landscape consisting of fantastically shaped rocks with a fruiting peach tree and other foliage beneath a band of clouds; the neck painted with five bats; the base painted with a nineteenth monkey; the lip, inner neck, and interior glazed
Jingdezhen, 1800–1860
Height: 8.65 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.92/2 cm
Stopper: colourless glaze on cobalt on porcelain, painted with a formalized shou (‘longevity’) character, made from half a bead; gilt-bronze collar

Lot 88 Provenance:
Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd. (1985)

Treasury 6, no. 1283

Lot 88 Commentary
Although the lack of mark on underglaze decorated porcelain snuff bottles does not necessarily preclude an imperial product, this was probably produced for a popular market. It is difficult to judge the date from the painting alone. Quality of painting by itself is certainly an unreliable criterion for dating nineteenth-century underglaze snuff bottles. Some with Xianfeng and later reign marks are of fine quality, and there were bottles produced probably in the last quarter of the nineteenth century that are still extremely well painted. In this case, however, we have the form as a guide. It is very obviously a pillar-bottle shape (see under Sale 1, lot 134), but decorated with monkeys. We also have the bats painted around the neck as a border, which seems to be a popular detail of the first half of the nineteenth century, and the control and quality of the blue pigment are typical of some bottles we can now date with some confidence to the Daoguang period. This object may therefore date from a little earlier than that reign, but is unlikely to have been made much later.

This is one of the most amusing of blue-and-white porcelain designs on snuff bottles and is delightfully well painted in a confident, idiosyncratic manner. The clouds around the shoulders are particularly inspired. The subject of eighteen (shiba) monkeys (hou) forms an auspicious rebus. The character shi has the same sound as another meaning ‘generations’, while the character ba approximates the sound of the word for ‘one hundred’ (bai), and another character with the sound hou means ‘marquis’, suggesting that one-hundred generations of the family be elevated to the rank of marquis (baishi fenghou). The cheeky monkey hiding under the foot was apparently not meant to be read as part of the main decoration, therefore, but as an amusing bonus for those who upturned the bottle and spotted him. Another level of meaning is represented by the peaches. A monkey with peaches invokes the famous legend of the Monkey King and the Peaches of Immortality (see under no. 1297) and thus represents a wish for longevity.


Again, other examples exist of the same design, and this design was obviously made as a series. Another is in the J & J Collection (Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 228).


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=965&exhibition=8&ee_lang=eng


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Hugh Moss |