Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving.
Lot 120
A 'famille-rose' enamelled glass 'landscape' snuff bottle Imperial, Wu Yuchuan, Beijing palace workshops, Qianlong iron-red four-character mark and of the period, 1770–1799
Sold for HK$ 744,000 (US$ 95,922) inc. premium

Lot Details
Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving. Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving. Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving. Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving. Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving. Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving. Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving. Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving. Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving. Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving. Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving. Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving. Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving. Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving. Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving. Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving. Wu Yuquan enamel on glass, tilling and weaving.
A 'famille-rose' enamelled glass 'landscape' snuff bottle
Imperial, Wu Yuchuan, Beijing palace workshops, Qianlong iron-red four-character mark and of the period, 1770–1799
5.49cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 6, no. 1093


    玻璃胎琺瑯彩插秧鼻煙壺
    御製品,吳玉川,御用作坊,北京,鐵紅乾隆年款,1770~1799


    The Rice Planters

    Famille rose enamels on translucent white glass; with a flat lip and slightly recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding convex oval footrim; painted on one main side and both narrow sides with a scene of four peasants planting rice in a paddy field set in a rocky landscape with a willow, a blossoming prunus tree, and another tree, and on the other main side with a poetic inscription in black regular script, preceded by the seal Zhonghe (Central harmony) in positive seal script and followed by two seals, the first, Wu Yuchuan, in negative seal script, the second, Shangao (As tall as the mountains), in positive seal script; the neck with a band of double-unit leiwen (thunder pattern) in iron red above a shoulder border of formalized lingzhi; the foot inscribed in iron-red regular script Qianlong nian zhi (Made during the Qianlong period)

    Imperial, Wu Yuchuan, palace workshops, Beijing, 1770–1799
    Height: 5.49 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.80/1.56 cm
    Stopper: lapis lazuli; gilt-silver collar
    Condition: miniscule, insignificant chip on the inside of the lip at the mouth and even smaller abrasions to the outer footrim; some flaking of the blue enamel from the band of formalized lingzhi design around the shoulders—a standard problem with this group of enamels; a misfired area in the centre of the character long of the reign mark where something has stuck to the base during the muffle-kiln firing. General relative condition: unusually good for a Wu Yuchuan, with the design almost entirely intact without any obtrusive wear

    Provenance:
    Kaynes-Klitz Collection
    Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 3 November 1994, lot 885

    Published:
    Dai Zhongren 1998, p. 90, nos. A062 and A062-1
    JICSBS, Spring 2006, p. 25; p. 26, fig. 27, bottom, and p. 30, fig. 39, bottom
    Treasury 6, no. 1093

    Commentary:
    Over the centuries Chinese emperors have encouraged rice and silk cultivation, the one to feed an ever-growing population, the other to clothe its wealthier members and provide both an export commodity and a solid tax base for the economy. Following this tradition, the Kangxi emperor commissioned in 1696 a set of woodblock engravings titled Gengzhitu (Pictures of Tilling and Weaving), forty-six illustrations executed by the court painter Jiao Bingzhen and illustrating the various processes in the production of rice and silk. This is thought to have been inspired by an edition of 1210 AD by Lou Shu comprising two sets of engravings, each of twenty-three blocks, although it may also have been partly inspired by an earlier painted album in the imperial library at the time with a similar theme (see Nathalie Monne 2003). The emperor inscribed the album with a series of poems from his own brush and wrote a foreword; the album was then converted into a woodblock edition for broader distribution. The original paintings remained in the imperial collection. There was also a porcelain album and additional printed editions; in the late Qing, a few of the paintings were copied by Wang Su.

    The Qianlong emperor, of course, was a collector and connoisseur on a grand scale who inspected his accumulated treasures frequently. On such occasions, he would usually add a seal, sometimes one denoting the studio in which he saw it. A favourite studio for examining painting was his Sanxi tang (Hall of Three Rarities), the seal of which appears on this album of paintings. Significantly, the same album carries another seal denoting that he looked at it on another occasion in the Yangxin dian (Hall of Moral Cultivation), the administrative seat of the palace workshops. The seals on the various leaves of the album suggest that he looked at it several times during his reign. His interest was more than idle curiosity or a fondness for pretty pictures. Also in the imperial library at the time were copies of the printed edition of the Kangxi period and another series of paintings commissioned by the Yongzheng emperor (Gugong zhoukan, Week 244 onwards).

    This unique bottle reflects the emperor's ongoing interest in the subject after 1767, when he was encouraging new enamellers, including Wu Yuchuan (see Treasury 6, no. 1092) to produce enamelled snuff bottles. The scene is an adaptation of the tenth leaf of the painted series, showing the replanting of the rice. Whoever designed the bottle — and it may not have been Wu, given the palace tendency for enamellers to work from preparatory sketches — has abridged the scene, better suiting it to the format of the bottle. The diagonal bank remains the same, although the type of tree is changed and brought forward, as is the half-replanted paddy. What proves its source beyond a doubt, however, is the disposition of the figures. In the original there are six figures depicted, as may be seen in versions by Leng Mei and Chen Mei, presented about the same time as Jiao's series. The picture on the enamelled version omits the two in the paddy closest to the man on the bank, bringing the three figures to the right up close to the bank—so close that the one whose legs are more or less hidden by the planter in front of him seems to be floating over the bank.
    The same subject is illustrated in a much earlier painting that was also in the imperial collection by the mid-Qianlong period. By the thirteenth-century artist Cheng Qi, it is in the Freer Gallery of Art (Lawton 1973, nos. 7 and 8). The Zhonghe seal that appears in front of the inscription here is found following the Qianlong emperor's additional inscription on the painting of section 13 (see the images at the Freer site and scroll down to section 13). The other seal, Shangao, was also commonly used on ceramics painted in the palace workshops under the Qianlong emperor, usually on landscape designs and accompanied by a second seal, completing the popular phrase Shangao shuichang (Tall as the mountains and everlasting as the waters) associated with birthday wishes. The combination on this bottle of a scene from one series of paintings in the imperial collection with a seal from another seems to imply an imperial product, and one designed at the court. A modern faker might be able to piece all these threads together and get it right, although he would then still have to get the glass, enamels, and style correct as well. At any time prior to the last decade or two no faker is likely to have been able to combine all the elements that are so convincing in this bottle. We must reiterate that the existence of works of Wu Yuchuan can be traced back to before 1910 (see under Treasury 6, no. 1092), and that his pieces were and still are in the imperial collection, so the late- Qing or Republican dates some have proposed for all his works seem highly unlikely in any case. We may safely assume that Wu Yuchuan's best works are his later ones. This is certainly one of his masterpieces, ranking alongside the sepia geese from the J & J Collection (see under Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 195). Wu Yuchuan probably began working at about the same time as whoever signed his wares Hu Xuan (see JICSBS, Spring 2006, pp. 17-21)—indeed, it is not entirely out of the question that we are dealing with a single artist here, although the indications at present are that the names represent different individuals. Wu was probably involved in production of a wider range of wares than bear his name, as is suggested by no. 193 in Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, which is of the same group as the next two examples here (Treasury 6, nos. 1094 and 1095) but has a reign mark identical to that on the bottle with geese decoration; it can only have been written by the same hand. Conceivably, all the reign marks were inscribed by a specialist calligrapher, as was apparently the case in the jade work workshop; but since Wu Yuchuan was obviously a reasonably competent calligrapher, there is no reason why he should not have added the reign mark on his own bottles. It is possible that Wu continued to produce bottles until the end of the reign, but perhaps more likely that he worked for a shorter period starting some time shortly after 1767. In the unlikely event that he continued working after 1799, he would have ceased to use the Qianlong or Guyue xuan marks that appear on most of his works.

    References in Treasury 6, will lead to a number of published Wu Yuchuan enamels on glass, but a recently published example is in the Denis Low Collection (Low 2007, no. 22), also with the Zhonghe seal.

    The poem reads:

    Literary writings are divided into three grades.
    Jiang Yan's dream was not really true.
    To 'inscribe the bridge', this is not the day;
    You write on fans, but to whom would you present them?
    The image of the rabbit: its soul as before.
    The noise of the silkworms: fresh on the paper.
    What need to rest the coral on a stand,
    When inspired words [from it] can flow out effortlessly?

    The first line seems to refer to Zhong Rong's Grades of Poetry. The dream of Jiang Yan (444–505) is one in which Jiang had to return the five-coloured brush that had been loaned to him by an earlier writer named Guo Pu; after the dream, his literary talents diminished. Several literary figures have written words on or about a bridge. Sima Xiangru (179–117 BCE), for instance, wrote on the pillar of a bridge named Shengqian qiao (Promotion Bridge) north of his native Chengdu, declaring his determination not to pass by it until he could ride on a crimson chariot drawn by a team of four horses (a trapping befitting people of social distinction). Wang Xizhi (321–379 or 303–361), the pre-eminent calligrapher, is reputed to have helped an old woman to sell her fans by gracing them with his wonderful calligraphy. The rabbit lives in the moon; sericulturists provide paper on which silkworm moths attach their eggs. Coral is a precious material that could be used to make the shaft of a brush.


    新秧競插無倦色,御筆揮灑有餘神

    半透明白色玻璃施琺瑯彩;平唇、凸略斂底、突出凸形圈足;一正面二側面繪四農夫插秧圖,另一正面書黑楷五律一首,其前繪朱文"中和"一篆印,其後繪白文"吳玉川"一篆印、朱文"山高"一篆印,頸一圈雷紋,下有一圈如意雲頭紋;底書鐵紅"乾隆年製"四字楷款

    御製品,吳玉川,御用作坊,北京:1770~1799
    高:5.49 厘米
    口經/唇經:0.80/1.56 厘米
    蓋:青金石,描金銀座
    狀態敘述:口沿有微不足道的缺口,圈足外緣有更小的撞傷,肩上部如意雲頭藍琺瑯彩有所脫落,乃為這一群琺瑯彩器常見的現象,隔焰窯中燒成過程中有物黏到了底款的"隆"字,其痕跡猶在;一般相對的狀態:就吳玉川的作品而言, 非常好,紋飾全無引人注目的磨耗

    來源:
    Kaynes-Klitz 珍藏
    蘇福比,香港,1994年11月3日,拍賣品號885
    文獻:
    戴忠任1998,頁90,編號A062、A062-1
    《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, 2006年春期,頁25;頁26,圖27,下;頁30,圖39 下
    Treasury 6, 編號1093

    說明:
    南宋劉松年畫過《耕織圖》兩卷,樓璹畫過《耕圖》二十一幅、《織圖》二十四幅。1696年,康熙皇帝命宮廷畫家焦秉貞繪新《耕織圖》四十六幅,同時有冷枚進《耕織圖》、陳枚進《耕織圖》,其後有《乾隆墨彩耕織圖瓷板》、《雍正耕織圖》、清末的翻刻本幾種,王素幾幅臨本等。可參閱Monnet 2003.

    "中和"一印也見於乾隆皇帝御覽過的(傳)元人程棨《摹樓璹〈耕作圖〉》第十三圖(灌溉)御詩後(訪問弗里爾美術館的圖像,向下滾展到Section 13,或參閱Lawton 1973, 編號7、8)。"山高"一印也常見於乾隆時期的瓷器,特別是有山水圖景的。一直到最近幾十年,仿冒的大概無法把圖畫、印、玻璃、粉彩等都搜羅攢好,而且,吳玉川肯定是乾隆後半期活躍的人(論證見Treasury 6,編號1092)。Low 2007,編號22是最近發表的有"中和"印的王玉川玻璃胎粉彩作品。
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