A moulded 'famille-rose' porcelain 'dragon and phoenix' snuff bottle
Imperial kilns, Jingdezhen, Jiaqing iron-red seal mark and of the period, 17961820 7.7cm high.
Treasury 6, no. 1204
Famille rose enamels on colourless glaze on porcelain; with a slightly convex lip and concave foot surrounded by a convex footrim; moulded and painted with a continuous design of a three-clawed dragon chasing a flaming pearl and a fenghuang turning in flight to look down upon a beribboned ruyi sceptre, surrounded by formalized clouds and flames with the sun seen beyond a small group of clouds, all set on a lower plane of formalized clouds packed more densely, some of the upper plane of detail undercut to leave it free standing, framed between upper and lower bands of formalized lingzhi; the neck with a band of continuous leiwen (thunder pattern); the lip, neck rim and footrim painted gold; the foot inscribed in iron-red seal script, Jiaqing nian zhi ('Made during the Jiaqing period'); the interior unglazed Imperial kilns, Jingdezhen, 17961820 Height: 7.7 cm Mouth/lip: 0.65/1.82 Stopper: gold, turquoise-blue, and iron-red enamel on colourless glaze on porcelain, moulded with a formalized chrysanthemum design; original
Condition: Slight wear to gold enamel on lip and footrim; otherwise in kiln condition
Provenance: Harriet Hamilton Chimiles Collection Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd
Published: Hamilton 1977, p. 118, no. P-19 Treasury 6, no. 1204
Commentary An unusual feature of the enamelling here, setting it apart from the standard for polychrome enamelled moulded porcelain bottles, is the colouring of the middle plane of formalized clouds in pale blue. As a rule, this layer of clouds is left white (other than on coloured monochromes, of course). It is also unusual in the prominence of a limited palette for the side with the dragon, where despite some minor details in blue, yellow, purple, and green, the impression is of a bottle with iron-red and blue on a white ground. This also has two tones of iron-red for the borders, the comparatively wide area of the paler ground showing through accentuating the contrast between the two.
Strangely, the entire series of Jiaqing moulded porcelain snuff bottles has traditionally commanded but limited respect among snuff bottle collectors. Despite their magnificence, obvious quality, and imperial status, they have been widely neglected in the past in favour of other porcelain types. It was not until the mid-twentieth century that Chinese ceramics later than the Qianlong period were widely considered worth collecting. Such collections as that of the Percival David Foundation lacked a body of post-Qianlong wares to match the strength of their collection of eighteenth-century porcelains. The lingering prejudices of an earlier age of collecting, when the Jiaqing reign was too late for respectability among ceramic enthusiasts, have faded away over the past half century, but they never made much sense for snuff bottle collectors: the Jiaqing reign was still part of a vital evolution of snuff-bottle manufacture for the court that continued even into the mid-nineteenth century.
This design comes in many different colour combinations, and from many different moulds. For other examples of the broader group, see Stevens 1976, no. 28; Chinese Snuff Bottles, no. 5, pp. 54 and 55, nos. 2629; Chinese Snuff Bottles, no. 6, p. 43, nos. C. 47 and C. 49, and pp. 45 and 46, nos. C. 5357, and Sotheby's, New York, 25 October 1997, lot 265, for instance. Other examples are cited under Treasury 6, no. 1205.