A Beijing enamel yellow-ground 'floral' snuff bottle
Imperial, palace workshops, Kangxi yuzhi brown-enamel mark and of the period, 17051718 4.81cm high.
Treasury 6, no. 1065
Famille rose enamels on copper, with gold; with a flat lip and a recessed foot, slightly concave and surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; painted on each main side with a circular panel, one with chrysanthemums and day lily, the other with camellias and bamboo, the panels surrounded by a scrolling, formalized foliage design on a yellow ground; the foot inscribed in brown regular script Kangxi yuzhi ('Made by imperial command of the Kangxi emperor'); the interior covered with a patchy, pale turquoise-blue enamel; the exposed lip and inner neck gilt Imperial, palace workshops, Beijing, 17051718 Height: 4.81 cm Mouth/lip: 0.74/0.99 cm Stopper: gilt bronze, chased with a formalized floral design; probably original; ivory finial
Condition: one area of fairly deep scratches along the bottom of the panel with chrysanthemums and day-lilies; some similarly deep scratches along the reign mark and base; the gold worn on footrim and lip; usual minor wear from use, not obtrusive. General relative condition: excellent
Provenance: Sotheby's, London, 7 June 1990, lot 294
Published: Treasury 6, no. 1065
Commentary: The pale pink and pastel yellow from the famille rose palette of enamels are used here with colours drawn from the traditional famille verte palette, indicating an early date among the surviving snuff bottles from the Kangxi palace workshops. This is also confirmed by the very unusual brown reign mark. Among the earliest experimental Kangxi palace enamels is a group of wares on a yellow ground that bear seal script marks, the formalization of the script following exactly that of recorded personal seals of the Kangxi emperor. These seal script marks are very rare, and were soon abandoned in favour of regular script, but among them is a mallet vase (Gillingham 1978, no. 7) on which the seal-script mark is in a similar brown enamel, suggesting that it was among those colours used in the early years of palace enamelling. Another apparently early bottle with a brown mark, in an unusual foliate panel, is still in the imperial collection (Chang Lin-sheng 1991, no. 4). The restricted palette here is also an indication of an early product. Another likely indication of an early date lies in the bottle's unusual dimensions. It is on the small size for bottles of the group, but this is accentuated by the unusual thinness of the form, which is more radically compressed than is usual, considerably reducing its capacity. It is likely that the stoppers on several of these enamelled metal bottles are original. In this case it seems almost certain, since the metalwork matches precisely and the unusually small neck would prove difficult to match up later with a spare early stopper in the absence of the original. To be sure, the stopper may have been made to fit and match at a later date as a replacement, but any later owner replacing a missing stopper would surely have tended to imitate more common designs that would have been well known from many surviving examples, whereas this stopper is distinctive in both design and in the very rare central depression to hold a tiny pearl finial (now replaced by a fragment of ivory).
Kangxi palace-enamelled snuff bottles are rare today: there are currently only thirteen recorded examples, three of which are in the Bloch Collection. For a listing of all thirteen, please see under Treasury 6, no. 1065.