Crackled, pink-speckled white, yellow, green, and aubergine enamels on porcelain; with a flat lip and protruding flat foot; carved with a continuous design of fruiting and flowering pomegranate branches, the neck with a band of formalized waves; all exterior surfaces, including the inner neck, enamelled directly onto the biscuit; the foot and interior unglazed Japan, 18541920 Height: 6.62 cm Mouth/lip: 0.59/1.30 cm Stopper: nephrite; coral collar Condition: small chip out of the outer edge of the foot; area of glaze flaked away from the lip running from the mouth almost to the outer lip, and about 0.65 cm at its greatest extent near the mouth. General relative condition: good
Provenance: Sotheby's, London, 28 April 1987, lot 803
Exhibited: Hong Kong Museum of Art, MarchJune 1994 National Museum of Singapore, November 1994February 1995
Commentary: With this rare ceramic bottle we are dealing with yet another pottery centre and, in this case, one that was not even located in China. After Japan was forced from its long period of isolation in 1853 by the arrival of Admiral Perry's black ships in Edo (Tokyo) Bay, some of the world's finest craftsmen were suddenly introduced, albeit through middlemen, to some of the world's keenest and wealthiest collectors. The results were predictable. Japanese arts and crafts were shipped to the West in large quantities, particularly to America, and the Japanese soon learned to accommodate the taste of these collectors. The demand for Oriental art in general soon saw the Japanese dealers who established an initial foothold on the East Coast of America not only trading in Chinese works of art, but having 'Chinese' works of art, particularly snuff bottles, made in Japan. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, interest in collecting snuff bottles had taken a firm hold in both Europe and America, and demand was considerable from an audience that knew very little about the art form or, indeed, the culture from which it came. The Japanese middlemen no doubt found it easier to produce their own snuff bottles than to trawl China for originals. This gave them the advantage of providing the more spectacular types and the materials that were in demand without the constraints of supply or authenticity. Much of the Japanese output was made with a view to fooling the uninformed collectors of the day, and the Qianlong mark was probably used as often in Kyoto and Tokyo in those days as it was in fakers' workshops in China. A good deal of the output, however, was not made with any obvious intention of fooling anyone. Once snuff bottles became a regular part of Japanese production, many artists responded by making entirely Japanese-style snuff bottles. Sometimes these had Qianlong marks on them anyway, despite their Japanese style, but frequently they did not. Such artists as the master carver Katon began to produce wares under their own names (see Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, nos. 303305 and Treasury 7, nos. 1693 and 1694). At their finest, the earlier range of Japanese bottles represents, with or without their apocryphal Chinese reign marks, some of the most creative and finely made snuff bottles in our collections, and includes some of the great masterpieces after which most collectors lust, no matter where they were made.
Among these Japanese bottles are some in porcelain. Although relatively rare, they were made at more than one ceramic centre. This and Treasury 6, no. 1468 are among the masterpieces from one of the kilns making snuff bottles. The use of this sort of range of coloured enamels and carved surfaces is reminiscent of the tradition of the Kutani kilns, but we do not yet know where these bottles were made. Although of a different style and not as impressive as art, there is a Japanese porcelain bottle in the Drummond Collection in the American Museum of Natural History, New York (70.3.2049) that bears the signature of the famous Meiji potter from Kyoto, Makuzu Kozan (also known as Miyagawa Kozan, 18421916), suggesting that any of the established potters may have produced snuff bottles occasionally, with or without signatures. Makuzu was one of the potters who produced a large number of pieces for export to the West and participated in overseas exhibitions.
The shape of this bottle and the next, and the low-relief style of floral carving link them stylistically to a group of magnificent Japanese lacquer bottles of the same period (see, for instance, Sotheby, New York, 31 October 1984, lot 139; Chinese Snuff Bottles, no. 5, p.31, fig. 24, also illustrated JICSBS, Spring 1982, front cover, and Sotheby's, London, 2 July 1984, lot 215).
These rare porcelain examples are individually composed and carved, and it may be that they were carved by the same person who produced the lacquer wares. In Japan, there was both close cooperation between a group of workshops skilled in different media in Japan; on the other hand, some workshops were capable of production in several media.
Here we find a well-composed depiction of a mantis with pomegranates, although whether the symbolism of the two (insects in general for fertility, and the pomegranate for the related continuity of the family line) was considered by the Japanese artist is another matter.
With this bottle, we face again the question of whether we are dealing with a glazes or enamels. Although treated like enamels painted directly onto the biscuit, with different details picked out in different colours (even the mantis is of a different colour green from the leaves behind it), if any one of these colours were encountered as an overall covering we would be tempted to call it a glaze.
A closely related bottle, although of different shape and subject matter, is in the Denis Low Collection (Kleiner 1999, no. 168), and three others, all reticulated and with different subjects, were in Dorotheum, Vienna, 1 December 1993, lot 159; Christie's, New York, 28 March 1996, lot 114; and Christie's, London, 12 October 1987, lot 267. We know that such bottles were in English private collections by 1920: A bulbous bottle that is from the broader group, with an engraved design of horses on a dark blue ground, was in the R. Gordon Smith Collection, sold at Glendining & Co, London, 18 October 1920. The sale was the disposal of the Smith Collection, so we may assume he had collected for some years, suggesting that the porcelain bottles were being made as early as the late nineteenth century. The pieces sold also included a reticulated version with a pale blue, typically Japanese three-clawed dragon in dark blue clouds (Hugh Moss Records), providing further indication that the R. Gordon Smith Collection included Japanese works. The Drummond Collection, formed before 1933 and now in the American Museum of Natural History, New York, is home to another example of Japanese ceramic snuff bottles, a reticulated, double-bodied bottle with panels of birds on rocks and a blue-glazed ground.
看本壺和Treasury 6，編號1468的淺浮雕風和形式，它們可能跟一批同時期的優美日本漆鼻煙壺有關係。可以參照蘇富比，紐約，1984年10 月31日，拍賣品號139與Chinese Snuff Bottles 5，頁31，圖24，《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, 1982年春期， 封面（同件），蘇富比，倫敦，1984年7月2 日，拍賣品號215（同件）。在日本，有的作坊合作，有的作坊能辦各種工藝。