Meriem Collection Sale One / 649

The Meriem Collection. Lot 649

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**A VERY RARE ENAMELED WHITE GLASS “EUROPEAN SUBJECT” SNUFF BOTTLE
IMPERIAL, PALACE WORKSHOPS, BEIJING, QIANLONG FOUR-CHARACTER
MARK IN BLUE ENAMEL AND OF THE PERIOD, 1736-1770
Finely painted on each side with a vignette of European figures
in a landscape with imaginary European towns in the distance,
on one side two women, one with a basket of flowers on her
back, converse while the man accompanying them, possibly a
priest, looks up into the leafy branches of a tree, on the other
main side a woman sits surrounded by three children, the
youngest clinging to her lap while the boy behind her shields his
eyes with one hand and rests the other on her shoulder, and the
young girl looks towards the distant town, all within a border of
scrolling yellow leaves and a blue, vertical band of three strands
of rope on the narrow sides, the neck encircled by blue floral
sprays, the foot inscribed in regular script Qianlong nian zhi
(Made in the Qianlong period), mother-of-pearl stopper with
coral collar
4.3 cm. high
$80,000-120,000

P R O V E N A N C E :
Robert Hall, London.
E X H I B I T E D :
Canadian Craft Museum, Vancouver, 1992.
112

For a discussion on the rarity of enameled glass from the Palace workshops, and the problems of
controlling the enamels, see lot 617. The pale sepia palette used on this bottle is extremely rare,
and is only relieved by the pink and blue enamel highlights used to the paint the clothing, and
pale green for foliage. Under the Yongzheng Emperor, some porcelain enameled at the Palace
workshops was decorated in a single color (ruby-red, blue, black). This in turn influenced
production at Jingde Zhen. The Jiangxi tongzhi (General Description of the Province of Jiangxi),
published in 1732, mentions the making of porcelain decorated only in black. When using just
black, or sepia, the palette allowed the painter to closely follow the style of traditional Chinese
landscape painting, which is reflected in the rendering of the mountainous background on this
bottle. An enameled glass bottle painted in sepia, but with a more traditional Chinese subject of
geese and with a calligraphic inscription on the reverse (also from the Qianlong Palace workshops)
is illustrated by Moss, Graham, Tsang, The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle. The J & J Collection,
no. 195. An enameled porcelain bottle with sepia-toned landscape painting, dated to the Qianlong
period, is illustrated in Zhongguo Biyanhu Zhenshang, p. 129, no. 138.

Neither the Kangxi nor the Yongzheng Emperors cared for foreign subject matter, despite having
European missionaries employed at the Palace workshops. The Qianlong Emperor, however was
intrigued by Western subjects and embraced them wholeheartedly from the beginning of his reign,
enjoying both foreign scenes and a range of distinctly Western border designs. Although the rope
band here is typical of Palace workshop designs derived from a Chinese source, the floral surrounds
are typically European with the acanthus leaves transformed into a rococo design derived from
France.

Dating from early in the reign, when the most artistic of Palace enameling on glass was produced,
the combination of subject matter and palette make this bottle unique. Nothing else quite like it is
recorded.

The pale colors of the palette give a first impression of faded enamels, but in fact they are in
remarkably good condition and not faded at all, the only problems rising from misfiring of some of
the blue enamel (a frequent problem early in the reign) affecting the reign mark and some of the
upper neck.

The Meriem Collection. Lot 649

Hugh Moss |