An Yixing stoneware 'Pekinese dogs and doves' snuff bottle
Probably Imperial, Yixing, 18211850 Sold with accompanying watercolour by Peter Suart. 6.4cm high.
Treasury 6, no. 1460
An Yixing stoneware 'pekinese dogs and doves' snuff bottle
Finely-crackled white and dark-blue glazes and grey-beige, creamy-beige, reddish-brown, and black stoneware slips on dark brown stoneware; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding convex footrim, and with a recessed, flat oval panel on each main side; the polychrome slip of the panels painted and carved with, on one side, two doves on a grassy bank beneath a rocky overhang growing with roses, and on the other with two Pekinese dogs in a similar setting, the panels surrounded by blue glaze that also covers the lip; the foot and interior glazed white Probably imperial, Yixing, 18211850 Height: 6.4 cm Mouth/lip: 0.7/1.5 cm Stopper: rose-quartz; coral finial
Condition: original blemish on upper neck-rim abraded, as is the lip from use; one small chip in upper neck-rim/lip filled (0.12 x 0.12 cm);blue enamel elsewhere all abraded from use;slip-decorated panels in excellent condition.General relative condition: good
Provenance: P. Y. Tu, Hong Kong (1975) Gerd Lester (1986)
Published: Silver Kris, October 1981, p. 31 Kleiner 1995,no. 241 Treasury 6, no. 1460
Exhibited: British Museum, London, JuneOctober 1995 Israel Museum, Jerusalem, JulyNovember 1997
Commentary For this imperial subject of the Daoguang period, see Sale 2, lot 50. The dove-and-dog Yixing bottles were obviously made in sets and in several different series. The most common version is of this shape, with a blue surround and multi-coloured slip decoration. The slip is both painted with a brush and plastered on and carved, or at least manipulated with a blade of some sort. This is the same technique as that of the Slip Master (see Treasury 6, nos. 14481451), but it is a quite different, more evolved style, with a number of different colours of slip used almost like enamels. This is typical of artistic evolution in the snuff-bottle arts, where a simple idea, drawn initially from the painting style of the literati with its predominance of monochrome ink painting, evolves to a more complex style as the possibilities of the medium are explored. These bottles with their more complex designs and multiple colours may be the later wares of the Slip Master, perhaps with a son taking over and making more complex wares, or they may be from a quite different workshop, although we are inclined towards the first option. Thebulk of the known examples probably date from the earlier part of the Daoguang reign,although the type may have remained popular throughout the reign. As a rule, however,it is not likely that an imperial type remained fashionable for thirty years withoutnoticeable changes in style.
While the form of this series of bottles remains reasonably constant, and the subject matter is the same, there are several different compositions. Either each was made as an individual composition of the same theme, or each series was redesigned. Two more are illustrated in Stevens 1976, as nos. 334 and 336, both equally finely worked. Between them, however, is a rare example (no. 335) with an enamelled design of the same subject, still with the blue surround, that is quite poorly painted, even by the decorative standards of Yixing. The painted version may come from a time later in the reign when the enamel workshop responsible for so many earlier bottles was beginning to show signs of decline. As a rule, the dogs and doves on this series of bottles are always extremely well depicted, full of life, and the limited range of colours of slip available to the carvers are very thoughtfully and effectively used.
Others of the slip-decorated versions with a blue surround are in Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 17 March 1977, lot 44; Rachelle Holden 1994, no. 50; Jutheau 1980, p. 94, no. 4; Robert Kleiner & Co. Ltd. 1994, no. 75 (the designs as a mirror image of the present example), and Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 2 December 1969, lot 43 (from the Claar Collection).
The symbolism imbued in the pairs of dogs and doves implies a wish for happy marriage. The Chinese name of one variety of rose that blooms throughout the year is yueji. The presence of this flower here suggests an additional desire that the harmonious relationship is maintained the whole year round.