Meriem Collection Sale One / 706

The Meriem Collection. Lot 706

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Of flattened, elongated oval form with flat lip and foot, finely
painted with a continuous scene of Niulang the Herdboy riding
a buffalo towards Zhinu the Spinning Maid and her attendant
standing near a pavilion, the celestial figures hovering on clouds
supported by flying magpies above turbulent waves, all between
gilt-enhanced underglaze-blue borders of petal lappets at the
foot and ruyi heads on the shoulder and below delicate flower
sprays on the neck, the base with four-character mark in ironred
seal script reading Jiaqing nian zhi (Made in the Jiaqing
period), glass stopper with integral collar
7 cm. high

P R O V E N A N C E :
B.T. Lyons.
Sotheby’s, London, 20 April 1982, lot 83.
Blanche B. Exstein.
Christie’s, New York, 21 March 2002, lot 72.
E X H I B I T E D :
Chinese Snuff Bottles, Taipei Gallery, New York, October 1993,
p. 13.
L I T E R A T U R E :
Arts of Asia, July-August 1982, p. 133.

This bottle is one of a pair in the Meriem collection, part of the famous
set of eight bottles discussed by Moss et al. in The Art of the Chinese
Snuff Bottle, pp. 366-7, nos. 212 and 213, where one of the four pairs
is illustrated (one of which was sold in these rooms, 22 March 2007,
lot 25). Apart from the two in the Meriem Collection, two are in the
Bloch Collection (having been acquired originally by Galia Baylin and
thence, via the Belfort Collection), illustrated by R. Kleiner, Chinese
Snuff Bottles from the Collection of Mary and George Bloch, pp. 164-5,
no. 222), and two were in the Stempel Collection (sold, Sotheby’s PB84
New York, 11 October 1979, lot 63). They probably all came out of
China in the 1960s and were split up into pairs, and acquired for four
prominent Hong Kong collections.

These eight bottles are amongst the finest and most exquisitely
enamelled of all Jiaqing Imperial porcelain snuff bottles, painted in
bright, crisp enamels and of extremely elegant form. Boxed sets of such
bottles would have been ordered at Jingde Zhen during the late
Qianlong and early Jiaqing period, to be distributed as gifts on various
occasions. This set appears to be unique in that the shapes, border
patterns and marks are identical, but each has a different subject.

The subject is the celestial love story of Niulang the Herdboy and Zhinu
the Spinning Maid, who represent the stars Vega and Altair in the
heavens. The two sweethearts married and were so infatuated with
each other that they neglected their duties. The Queen of Heaven
became angry and with a bold stroke of her silver hairpin, drew a line
across the sky which became the Milky Way, and the Herdboy and
Spinning Maid were separated from each other. Their anguish was so
great that the King of Heaven took pity and granted them a visit one
night each year. On the seventh night of the seventh month, magpies fly
together to form a bridge for the lovers to cross.

The Meriem Collection. Lot 706

Hugh Moss |