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photographer E-Yaji.

The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part III  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 25 May 2011: Lot 17 

Lot 17

Lot 17
Treasury 6, no. 1359

A pale turquoise-glazed porcelain ‘dragon’ snuff bottle

(‘Discreet Courtly Turquoise’)

Pale turquoise-blue and black glazes on porcelain; the reticulated, double body with a flat lip and recessed, flat foot surrounded by a protruding, convex footrim; carved on the outer body with a continuous design of an imperial five-clawed dragon chasing a flaming pearl over a background of formalized clouds and flames; the foot engraved in seal script, Wang Bingrong zuo (‘Made by Wang Bingrong’); all exterior surfaces of the outer body, except the footrim, glazed; the pupils of the eyes painted black; the interior unglazed
Imperial, Wang Bingrong, Jingdezhen, 1820–1860
Height: 6.02 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.62/1.7 cm
Stopper: coral, carved with a coiled chi dragon; glass collar

Lot 17 Provenance:
J & J Collection
Sotheby’s, New York, 23 April 1981, lot 88
Belfort Collection (1986)

Kleiner 1987, no. 236
Treasury 6, no. 1359

L’Arcade Chaumet, Paris, June 1982
Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

Lot 17 Commentary
The colour of this snuff bottle is a rare one in the group of dragon bottles by Wang Bingrong, although it is a colour that occurs among the range of pastel glazes used by identifiable individual potters in general. The carving and relief are less emphatic than on Sale 1, lot 112, and Sale 2, lot 102> The dragon is a little thinner, the head smaller, the relief lower, and the signature not quite as crisply cut as on the others. It is as if Wang took everything down a peg or two in order to match the paler, subtler glaze colour. One could also speculate that this is a later work than the other two. When receiving a first imperial commission, any potter would exert himself to provide the most impressive work possible. After many repeat orders, an all-too-human tendency to take things for granted might creep in gradually, lowering standards. It is unlikely that Wang would have got to the point of responding to repeated imperial orders with the message that he was too busy just then to fill them, but he might have put a little less effort into each bottle as the years passed by and the orders showed no sign of slowing. Another indication that this may be a little later than the other two is that the left rear leg of the beast is a little less coherent. On the other two, the two legs are spread out in a typically nineteenth-century fashion, but they are still believable and comfortable looking, whereas this leg looks mildly disjointed. This appears to have been a problem that developed through the repetition of dragon designs on a grand scale in the Daoguang period.

On the two bottles offered in the previous two auctions, the outer surface of the inner body has obviously been glazed with the same colour as the outer body, although with a thinner wash. In this case the wash is so thin that in places it appears to be a biscuit ground, although where the wash fails to cover the biscuit we can see the difference.

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