Lot 127 Lot 127 Lot 127 Lot 127 Lot 127 Lot 127 Lot 127

photographer E-Yaji.
Snuff Bottles from the Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part I  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 May 2010: Lot 127 

Lot 127


Lot 127
Treasury 6, no. 1225

Learned Beauty

Famille rose enamels on colourless glaze on porcelain; moulded and/or carved, and painted to depict a standing woman holding a book in her raised right hand; the flat, naturalistic foot unglazed; the interior unglazed
Jingdezhen, 1790–1830
Height: 7.7 cm
Mouth: 0.49 cm
Stopper: wood, carved as a hair bun 

Lot 127 Provenance:
Robert Hall (1996)

Hall 1996, no. 10
Robert Hall, business brochure, undated
Antiques Bulletin, no. 650, 15–21 June 1996, cover and p. 10
JICSBS, Winter 1998, front cover 
Treasury 6, no. 1225

Lot 127 Commentary:
We assume that this unique figure of a standing woman is moulded, although there are no specific signs of it and, given that it is the only one of the design known, it is possible that it was carved. The interior is unglazed and reveals no joint lines; the foot seems to have been luted on as a separate panel, and the interior seems to have been worked from the base before the foot was applied, suggesting it may be a one-off, handcarved model. Although it seems to fit into the broader group of moulded figural bottles stylistically, we must leave open its actual method of manufacture. 

However it was produced, it is one of the masterpieces of the type from the mid- Qing period. The likelihood is that it dates from the Jiaqing reign, but figures in the round begin to appear in Qianlong porcelain in other art forms (children holding or climbing on vases, for instance; see several cited under Treasury 6, no. 1196), and there is no reason why this bottle should not have been inspired by that production. Indeed, it is possible that the idea for moulded porcelain figural snuff bottles came from such pieces and that this is an early example from the late Qianlong period.

The figure represents the ideal woman, young, comely, with a pale complexion and a tiny mouth, and well educated, if the book is anything to go by. Among such bottles it is closest, perhaps, to the rare group of a scholar and two women represented by Treasury 6, nos. 1226-1228, than to the usual range of moulded porcelain figures of reclining women, Liu Hai, and others. This and the group of scholar and two women, represent a new trend in the snuff bottle arts: charming subjects in their own right not necessarily carrying any great weight of symbolism. It may represent an unusual departure from the standard range of subjects inspired by courtly production, perhaps reflecting the emergence of a new clientele for snuff bottles as the habit of snuffing spread rapidly during the mid-Qing period. 

The enamels here may appear to come from the traditional palette, but the book is covered in white enamel, which was not used as part of the earlier, famille verte palette of enamels and became commonly used only with the famille rose palette in the early eighteenth century – oddly, since the Chinese used white enamel on cloisonné enamels from the fifteenth century onwards. The pale yellow is also mixed with a little white to give it a paler colour and greater opacity.




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Hugh Moss |