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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 128 

Lot 128

Lot 128
Treasury 6, no. 1106 (‘Retiring Cat’)

Famille rose enamels on translucent white glass; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flattened foot rim; painted with a continuous garden scene including a perforated, convoluted rock, a day lily, roses, asters, and a cat crouching on a grassy ground with two butterflies flying above; the foot inscribed in pale, iron-red regular script Guyue xuan 古月軒 (‘Ancient Moon Pavilion’)
Imperial, palace workshops, Beijing, 1770–1799
Height: 5.8 cm     
Mouth/lip: 0.59/1.59 cm
Stopper: gilt bronze, chased with a formalized floral design

Harriet Hamilton
Chimiles Collection (1996)
Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd (1997)

Hamilton 1977, p. 91, no. G-102
JICSBS, Spring 2006, p. 29, fig. 36, centre
Treasury 6, no. 1106

This is part of a group of enamels that includes many pieces wrongly attributed for several decades to Ye Bengqi 葉菶祺and the 1930s. One frequent feature of the genuine ones, when they feature garden scenes (which Ye Bengqi seems to have largely edited out on the unquestioned wares he produced in the 1930s and perhaps the 1940s), is inclusion of a single new branch of reddish-brown leaves along with the older, green-leafed branches. It occurs here on one narrow side, on many of the other published examples, and on one in the imperial collection in Beijing. (See Li Jiufang 2002, no. 6, which is another bottle of an unusual form, but with a blue enamel Qianlong era mark).

The group to which this piece belongs is closely related, chronologically, artistically, and technically to the classic Guyue xuan wares (see Sale 1, lot 135; Sale 2, lot 77; Sale 3, lot 138; Sale 6, lots 228 and 238; and Sale 7, lots 118 and 148). Although they are usually distinguishable, there are enough common features, with the occasional overlap of a range of these features, to suggest a closely related group. We suspect both groups were palace products from the 1770s to 1799.
The pale iron-red regular script found here is standard for wares produced at the court for the Guyue xuan. One of the flying insects has coloured wings and is presumably a butterfly, while the other, with only black wings, may be intended as a bee, but otherwise looks very much like the butterfly. Whatever the intent, an identical insect with precisely the same iron-red markings on its yellow body and in a similar diving pose appears on a similarly marked example in the imperial collection in Beijing (Li Jiufang 2002, no. 22). That bottle has a similar blue rock and the same range of asters in several different colours. The two are surely from the same enamelling team.


This is not the Sotheby’s sale catalogue. This is a product of Hugh Moss for the purposes of this website. For the catalogue details please refer to Sotheby’s website or request a copy of a printed sale catalogue from Sotheby’s.


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