Meriem Collection Sale One / 617

The Meriem Collection. Lot 617

Previous | Thumbnails | Next
Click on the image below for a close up

Of elongated, tapering cylindrical form with flat lip and recessed
foot surrounded by a footrim, the translucent white glass bottle
finely painted in delicately shaded famille rose enamels with a
multitude of flower sprigs reserved on a gold ground, the foot
inscribed in blue enamel, Qianlong nian zhi (Made in the
Qianlong period), tourmaline stopper with jadeite collar
7.1 cm. high

P R O V E N A N C E :
Hugh Moss Ltd.
E X H I B I T E D :
Canadian Craft Museum, Vancouver 1992.

The earliest reference to an enameled glass snuff bottle is discussed in
an article by Emily Byrne Curtis, “The Kangxi Emperor’s Glasshouse...
Nalla Fornace di Vetri”, JICSBS, Winter 1990, p. 12, where her research
into the Jesuit archive in Rome revealed records that the Kangxi Emperor
gave his own enameled glass snuff bottle to De Tournon, an apostolic
delegate from the Vatican in 1706.

However, the manufacture of enameled glass wares was fraught with
difficulty. Under the Yongzheng and Qianlong Emperors, for instance,
the glass bottles would be designed on paper first by court artists and
only after the Emperor had given his approval would they be produced.
Because of the difficulty of successfully firing enamels on glass, the
failure rate was apparently high in this art form, prompting the Qianlong
Emperor to keep most of the enameled glass wares produced at the
Palace, while distributing other art forms. The Imperial Archives of the
Palace workshops indicate that perhaps as few as three hundred snuff
bottles of enameled glass were successfully fired during the entire sixtyyear
reign of the Qianlong Emperor. Since smaller objects were easier to
control than large ones, this dictated that the majority of Imperial
enameled glass wares were small, such as snuff bottles, wine cups and
brushpots, with snuff bottles far outnumbering other forms.

The difficulty encountered in manufacturing enameled glasswares has,
in the case of the present example, been compounded by its mille fleurs
decoration. The attractive and complex design was difficult to execute,
as the artist had to ensure that the flowers had to be relatively
proportionate both to the size of the vessel as well as to one another.
A tour de force of the decorator’s art, such a bottle would have been
extremely time-consuming to produce, and required a painter of
exceptional skill. See an enameled double-gourd glass snuff bottle,
illustrated by R. Kleiner, Chinese Snuff Bottles. The White Wings
Collection, pp. 16-7, no. 9, delicately painted with double-gourds and
flowers against a gold ground.

Amongst the flowers depicted on this bottle, the artist has rendered in
great detail peonies of several kinds, lotus, chrysanthemum, magnolia,
roses, hibiscus, lilies, asters, begonia, narcissus, morning glory
(convolvulus), cymbidium orchids, camellia, dianthus, jasmine and many

The sumptuous Qianlong mille fleurs design was much admired by later
generations, as can be seen on an enameled porcelain double-gourd
snuff bottle from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. A. Stempel, illustrated
by B. Stevens, The Collector’s Book of Chinese Snuff Bottles, no. 300,
and from the Jiaqing-marked vase in the Shanghai Museum, illustrated
in Qingdai ciqi hangjian, Shanghai, 1994, p. 196, no. 251. Even Yuan
Shikai (1859-1916) was so impressed by such porcelains that he had a
small box and cover, now in the Percival David Foundation, made in this
style with the mark Juren Tang zhi (made for the Hall of Dwelling in
Benevolence). This box and cover illustrated by M. Wilson in Rare Marks
on Chinese Ceramics, London, 1998, pp. 44-45, no. 12, must have been
made after 1912 when Yuan Shikai moved into one of the palaces of the
Forbidden City and named it Juren Tang. While charming, these later
examples never reached the superb standard of design and execution
seen on exquisite Qianlong pieces such as the present lot.

The Meriem Collection. Lot 617

Hugh Moss |