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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IV  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2011: Lot 128 

Lot 128


Lot 128
Treasury 6, no.1435 (‘Many Boys in One’)

A moulded 'famille-rose' porcelain 'boy and double gourd' snuff bottle

Famille-rose enamels on colourless glaze on porcelain; moulded and painted in the form of a squatting boy, his mouth open, his arms and legs clutching a double gourd that is about as large as he is and decorated with formalized, scrolling flowers, including an Indian lotus; the base of the gourd inscribed in seal script, Da Qing Qianlong nian zhi (‘Made during the Qianlong period of the Great Qing dynasty’); the lip painted with gold enamel; the interior unglazed
Jingdezhen, 1870–1930
Height: 4.29 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.31/0.65 cm
Stopper: green enamel on colourless glaze on porcelain, carved as the stalk of the gourd; original

Belfort Collection

Très précieuses tabatières chinoises, p. 23, no. 36
Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 159
JICSBS, Winter 1998, front cover
Treasury 6, no.1435

L’Arcade Chaumet, Paris, June 4 1982
Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum of Singapore, November 1994–February 1995

This is the second example of a boy clutching a gourd in the collection (see also Treasury 6, no. 1196, where many published versions are cited). We are not entirely certain what to make of them. The drawing of the reign mark here, and on another of the group where its mark has been illustrated, is suspicious. On genuine wares, the first character, da (‘great’), is formalized as a horizontal line from which drop four vertical lines of the same length, spaced equidistant from each other. Here, the two inner lines have a wider gap between them, and they are joined together at the point where they meet the upper horizontal line. This is a feature typical of some known late-Qing and Republican fakes. The enamels are of good quality, but they are not convincing for the late Qianlong period. Another feature of the group as a whole is that the faces of the boys are distinctly coloured with a wash of fairly obvious iron-red enamel to simulate flesh. Some are far more strongly coloured than this example, though the known early models of boys around vases tend to be either white faced or have only a very slight wash of colour.

Perhaps what is most worrying about them, however, is the consistent lack of wear. Many of the boys have gold designs on iron-red jackets; both are very weak enamels and should show more signs of abrasion. Even the very thin colouring on the prominent heads and faces remains intact. On top of their anomalously good condition, there is the fact that so many of the gourd-hugging boys appear to come from the same mould. With an early series, we see constantly repeated models and designs from a number of different moulds, sometimes of different sizes, suggesting that larger quantities were made, which required the regular replacement of worn-out moulds with identical or not-so-identical copies. As genuine early bottles fall prey to breakage and loss, the small group of survivors will tend to reflect the differences inherent in the various moulds from which the whole series was made. The uniformity of the gourd-huggers suggests that they were made from a single mould whose progeny survive in relatively high numbers. That betrays their comparative newness and indicates a late-Qing or Republican production date.

Whenever most of these bottles were made, the quality is consistently high, with excellent modelling and enamelling, and they are delightful little ceramic sculptures in their own right.


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=1235&exhibition=9&ee_lang=eng


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Hugh Moss |