Meriem Collection Sale One / 666

The Meriem Collection. Lot 666

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Of compressed spherical form tapering to a waisted neck, with flat lip and recessed foot
surrounded by a footrim, very finely enameled with a continuous scene in which a
young European couple are shown courting, the two seated beside a tree, the young
man’s left hand on her knee close to her left hand as she twists a loose lock of hair with
her right hand in which she also holds a sprig of flowers, a long yellow cloth draped
across her lap, the scene continuing onto the other main side where three goats are
shown in a wooded landscape, all between formalized floral borders above the foot and
on the shoulder where they continue in an even more elaborate design on the narrow
sides above a row of three golden dots, the exposed metal at the neck and foot gilded,
the base inscribed in blue enamel regular script Qianlong nian zhi (Made in the Qianlong
period), the gilt-metal stopper possibly original
4.8 cm. high

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. 9.
Canadian Craft Museum, Vancouver, 1992.
L I T E R A T U R E :
JICSBS, December 1977, p. 34, no. 77.
Hong Kong Museum of Art, Snuff Bottles of the Ch’ing Dynasty, 20 October-3
December 1978, p. 49, no. 9.

This exceptional bottle undoubtedly ranks among the finest Imperial painted enamel bottles, a
group in which masterpieces are standard. The subject matter clearly shows the influence of Jesuit
artists at the Chinese Court, who passed their skills on to the craftsman employed at the Imperial
workshops at Beijing. French and Swiss painted-enamel panels and other objects were sent to the
Court at Beijing throughout the first half of the Qing dynasty to inspire and instruct the Court
enamellers and ingratiate the Jesuits with the Emperor. During the Qianlong reign depictions of
European figures were common. Popular among them were women with cherubic male children
loosely clad in clothing with a mass of folds painted with a combination of sapphire-blue, ruby-red
and rich orange yellow enamel which finds its exact counterpart in French and Swiss enamels of
the late-17th and early-18th centuries.

The Palace enameling workshops for metal and glass reached an artistic peak during the first half
of the Qianlong reign. A combination of intense Imperial interest, the fruits of the Kangxi and
Yongzheng Emperors’ contributions to enameling in the various media, and proliferation of both
Court artists and Jesuit missionaries involved in designing and painting the wares, resulted in some
of the finest examples ever produced in China. The present example, from the early Qianlong
period, epitomizes this zenith in the production of enamel on metal.

An artistic device used by Palace enamellers throughout the Qianlong period was stippling: the
gradation of shade or color by applying a mass of tiny dots. Technically, this allowed for a wide
variation in intensity of color without constantly changing the saturation of the enamel. The
alternative was to use different washes so that the intensity of the enamel was diluted. The
present bottle is predominantly stippled to produce shading and chiaroscuro.

An Imperial bottle from the J & J Collection is painted with a very similar palette,
and like this bottle, has European figures on one side and goats on the other. See
Moss, Graham, Tsang, The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle. The J & J Collection,
no. 171. Another example with European figures painted in a very similar
fashion, and possibly by the same hand, from the J & J collection was sold in
these rooms, 29 March 2006, lot 29. Compare also an enameled copper
bottle in the Imperial Collection in Taiwan which is likely by the same
designer or enameller (Snuff Bottles in the Collection of the National
Palace Museum, no. 14). Another Qianlong-marked enameled copper
“European-subject” bottle, also possibly by the same hand, which has
similar border decoration, is illustrated by M. Hughes, The Blair
Bequest. Chinese Snuff Bottles from the Princeton University Art
Museum, p. 257, no. 356.

The Meriem Collection. Lot 666

Hugh Moss |