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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 127 

Lot 127

Lot 127
Treasury 5, no. 868 (‘Autumn Yellow’)

Semi-transparent yellow glass sparsely suffused with air bubbles of various sizes, some elongated, with black pigment; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding rounded foot rim; engraved on one main side with a flowering chrysanthemum plant growing near a rocky outcrop and on the other with a poem in clerical script flanked on either side by the inscription Qianlong kuichou chongyang yuti 乾隆癸丑重陽御題 (‘Inscribed by the emperor on the Double-nine Festival in the year kuichou of the Qianlong era’), the engraving all filled with black pigment
Bottle: imperial glassworks, Beijing, 1760-1820
Inscription: palace workshops, Beijing, 1793-1820
Height: 5.3 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.80/1.52 cm
Stopper: glass; glass finial; glass collar

Illustration: watercolour by Peter Suart

Hugh M. Moss Ltd
Paula J. Hallett
Hugh M. Moss Ltd (1986)

Kleiner 1987,no. 132
Treasury 5, no. 868

Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May – June 1993

At whatever date the designs and poems may have been added to this and Sale 8, Lot 1082, we may be reasonably certain they were added by the same hand. The script may be different, and, therefore, more difficult to compare, but the chrysanthemum designs are obviously products of the same artistic personality. Identical idiosyncratic touches are displayed in each one, but in different places. Had they come from a common design, two different hands might have produced such similarities, but here they represent individual style. While it is possible that the artistic personality was that of the designer—painting two different versions of the same subject—rather than the lapidary, a connection between the two bottles would nevertheless be proven. In the two compositions, note that the larger flower is on the left and higher up, while the smaller is lower and to the right. Comparison of leaf shapes and other details reveals identical or very similar shapes deployed in different positions. The distinctive side view of a leaf with its front edge curled up to show the back appears centre-left on this bottle, but lower left on the turquoise one. Note also the two buds at top-centre, each set on the end of a twig. It is most unlikely a single artist’s style would have remained constant between 1774, the earliest likely date for the bottle in Sale 8, and 1793, suggesting that both may have been added after 1793, the date on this bottle.

The inscription of another poem on a glass bottle in the Franz collection (Franz 2011, no. 439) is also dated 1793, although earlier in the year. The poem on that bottle is by the Ming painter Tang Yin 唐寅 (1470 – 1523); the one on Sale 8, lot 1082 is by Yun Shouping 惲壽平 (1633 – 1690).

This poem reads

Suddenly I saw the chrysanthemums burst into bloom.
Yellow were the flowers and lush green their foliage.
Unaware the Double-ninth Festival was here already,
I thought it was the goddess who dallies with pearls.

Whoever wrote this poem (we have not identified the author) was not a ‘strong poet’; he is closely following a quatrain by the Tang poet Wang Shi 王適 on the ‘Prunus by the Shore of the River’ (Jiangbin mei 江濱梅): 忽見寒梅樹,開花漢水濱。不知春已早,疑是弄珠人。Suddenly I saw the cold plum tree / had blossomed by the shore of the Han. / Unaware spring was here early, / I thought it was the goddess who dallies with pearls. Repeating the language and the ‘plot’ of Wang Shi’s poem as indicated by the italicized part of our translation, our poet appears to be learning the craft of poetry by imitating. He does not allude to Wang’s poem or offer a witty response to it; he simply uses it as a pattern to follow in making an ‘original’ poem of his own. The Qianlong emperor worked very hard to write poems in Chinese, with debatable success; he may be the author. The ‘goddess who dallies with pearls’ is some kind of water sprite mentioned in ancient texts; whether she is the agent of the blossoming of the flowers in these poems or the poet is pretending to confuse the flowers with the goddess is unclear; it is probably the latter.


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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