Meriem Collection Sale One / 638

The Meriem Collection. Lot 638

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Of compressed ovoid form with flat lip and recessed foot
surrounded by a footrim, one main side carved with a peony
stem, the flowers in reddish-pink and blue and the foliage in
pale green, the leaves of the begonia plant on the other main
side also of pale green color while the flowers are reddish-pink
above a blue butterfly, all against the bubble-suffused ground,
stained green agate stopper with gilt-metal collar
7.5 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.

This bottle is part of a group of late Qianlong bottles with heavily
bubbled grounds, and bright, multi-colored overlays. Certain groups of
mid-Qing glass snuff bottles have been attributed to the Xin or Yuan
family of glass carvers (Xinjiapi and Yuanjiapi respectively).
Unfortunately, however, the only early information on these families and
their wares comes a century after their time and is hardly sufficient for
any confident attribution. They are mentioned by nineteenth-century
snuff connoisseur Zhao Zhiqian in his Yonglu xianjie where he writes
that the Xin, Le and Yuan family overlays were famous during the
Qianlong period: “All the ones made in this way might be called overlays
(pi) and the most famous of these are the Xin family overlays (Xinjiapi),
Le family overlays (Lejiapi) and Yuan family overlays (Yuanjiapi).” The Xin
family overlays are described as similar to those made by the Yuan
family, and according to Zhao Zhiqian, “are the most cleanly done, and,
as their colors are made out of crushed gems, the lustre dazzles the
eye”. The Le family overlays, on the other hand, “have a lotus[-root]
powder ground as white as frozen snow. The way the colors are
arranged is also quite extraordinary, with red, purple, sky-blue, and
kingfisher-blue alternating one with the other in a natural fashion.”

The begonia (qiuhaitang) has long been an esteemed garden plant in
China, often planted on rockwork and used as ground-cover in small
areas of shade. It is associated with feminine qualities because of its
preference for cool, shady places and there is a legend that a spot
watered by the tears of a woman deserted by her lover suddenly
sprouted begonias to console her.

The sound tang in the name of the begonia (qiuhaitang) was probably
intended to evoke the idiomatic expression yutang fugui (“[May your]
magnificent hall [be filled with] riches”). The begonia is commonly
linked to the magnolia (yulan) to elicit the sound of the first half of this
expression. The peony, “the king of flowers,” represents prosperity, and
is associated with the upper classes of society.

The Meriem Collection. Lot 638

Hugh Moss |