Meriem Collection Sale One / 640

The Meriem Collection. Lot 640

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**A SUPERB AND VERY RARE BEIJING ENAMEL SNUFF BOTTLE
IMPERIAL, PALACE WORKSHOPS, BEIJING, KANGXI YUZHI FOUR-CHARACTER MARK IN BROWNISH-RED ENAMEL AND OF THE PERIOD, 1715-1722
Of flattened spherical form with a recessed foot surrounded by a footrim, each side with
a slightly convex circular panel within a narrow gilt-metal border, one panel decorated
with roses and peonies growing around a pierced blue rock, the other panel with
nandina growing beside a pierced rock and a pine tree behind, the narrow sides each
with a vertical row of six alternating wan and shou characters (together symbolizing a
wish for “ten thousand years of longevity”) painted in blue and alternately framed by
leafy sprigs of peaches and peach blossoms, all below a band of pendent green leaf tips
beneath a yellow and brown neck band outlined in gilt-metal, the foot inscribed in
brownish-red regular script Kangxi yuzhi (Made by Imperial command of the Kangxi
Emperor), the original stopper enameled with overlapping blossoms below a gilt-metal
bead finial
6.7 cm. high with stopper
$400,000-600,000

P R O V E N A N C E :
Hugh Moss Ltd.
E X H I B I T E D :
Hong Kong Museum of Art, Snuff Bottles of the Ch’ing Dynasty, 20 October-
3 December 1978, no. 3.
L I T E R A T U R E :
Emily Byrne Curtis, “Vitreous Art: Colour Materials for Qing Dynasty Enamels”,
Arts of Asia, November-December 1994, p. 97, fig. 1.
Catalogue, Canadian Craft Museum, Vancouver, 1992.
Hong Kong Museum of Art, Snuff Bottles of the Ch’ing Dynasty, 20 October-3
December 1978, p. 47, no. 3.

This bottle comes from an extremely rare group of Kangxi “Imperial-command” snuff bottles made
in the Palace workshops in Beijing. It is thought that only thirteen of these Kangxi yuzhi bottles are
known worldwide. The introduction of European painted enamels on glass and metal into the
Palace workshops created a radical impact on the use of enamels on porcelain throughout China.
Towards the end of Emperor Kangxi’s reign, the traditional Chinese palette of famille verte
enamels was gradually expanded to reach its zenith. With the introduction of new enamels from
Europe, colors which were previously unknown to the Chinese craftsmen became available, first to
Guangzhou and Beijing, the two main centers for enameling on metal, then spreading rapidly to
Jingdezhen, the great porcelain manufacturing center of China. This new palette was called famille
rose because of the ruby-red derived from gold oxide, but the most significant difference from the
famille verte palette was in the new technique of mixing white enamel with other colored enamels
to create a wider range of pastel shades, even though the white enamel itself was not new, having
been used for several centuries in cloisonné enamels. At this stage during the late Kangxi and early
Yongzheng periods, enamellers in China, whether working on metal, glass or porcelain, had the
widest possible range of colors at their disposal.

On some earlier enameled porcelain wares the new palette was introduced gradually, resulting in
the so-called “rose-verte” palette. At Beijing, where enameling only began with the new famille
rose palette, the use of this combination of the traditional palette with some new colors, which is
found on this example, is extremely rare and suggests that it is from the earlier phase of
production, from the second decade of the century. It is also unusual that a plain white ground is
used; rather than a colored ground which typically defined the output of the Kangxi Palace
enameling workshops.

Another Kangxi-marked snuff bottle, enameled with prunus blossoms on the main panels, is in the
Beijing Palace Museum, illustrated in Snuff Bottles. The Complete Collection of Treasures of the
Palace Museum, pl. 127. See also one formerly from the J & J Collection and now in the Denis Low
Collection, sold in these rooms, 30 March 2005, lot 21. Other examples of Kangxi yuzhi-marked
bottles include one in the Bloch collection, illustrated by R. Kleiner, Chinese Snuff Bottles from the
Mary and George Bloch Collection, p. 2, no. 1; and another with bats, peaches and butterflies
in the Reitberg Museum, illustrated by Robert Hall, Chinese Snuff Bottles, Masterpieces from the
Reitberg Museum, Zurich, p. 14, no. 1. Others are in the Beijing Palace Museum, illustrated in
Snuff Bottles. The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, pl. 128 and another
illustrated in Snuff Bottles in the Collection of the National Palace Museum, p. 80, no. 3.

There are a number of features that suggest that this bottle hails from the earlier part of the Kangxi
period. Firstly, the painting is less stylized than other examples, including the one in the Bloch
Collection, and the one in the Palace Museum, which have stylized blossoms. Even when compared
to the example from the Reitberg Museum, the latter, with its stylized butterflies within a circular
panel, seems to be a later development. The extremely rare reddish-brown reign mark also
suggests an early work, before blue marks became standard. Finally, there is the unusual metal
surround around the main circular panels and beneath the upper neckrim, which seems to suggest
an early experimental form, before enameled metal bottles were standardized with continuous
enamel surfaces.

The panels are decorated with nandina, cockscomb and pine, all alluding to longevity. The
nandina, with its red berries and evergreen leaves, is a welcome sight in winter and is also known
as “heavenly bamboo”, and is sometimes a visual substitute for bamboo. A combination of lingzhi,
narcissus, nandina and rock form the phrase zhixian zhushou (“The fungus fairy offers birthday
greetings”). In addition, the word for cockscomb (guan) is a pun on the word for “official”, while
the pines and rocks represent longevity. The blooming China rose enjoys a long flowering period
and thus is a further symbol for longevity. Its Chinese name is also changchun (“everlasting
spring”). The peaches and wanshou characters on the narrow sides of the bottle further reinforce
the idea. It is very likely that this bottle was commissioned as an Imperial birthday tribute.
Of the thirteen surviving bottles bearing this mark, this is the only one with its original, matching
enamel stopper.

The Meriem Collection. Lot 640

Hugh Moss |