A famille rose enamelled porcelain 'warriors' snuff bottle
('Gathering of Warriors')
Famille rose enamels on colourless glaze on porcelain; with convex lip and concave circular foot surrounded by a convex circular footrim; painted with a continuous scene of warriors, standard-bearers, and other figures meeting in front of a screen set up in hilly countryside; the foot inscribed in iron-red regular script Jiaqing nian zhi ('Made during the Jiaqing period'); the lip painted with gold enamel; the interior glazed Jingdezhen, 18001820 Height: 7.72 cm Mouth/lip: 0.82/1.48 cm Stopper: jadeite; gilt-bronze collar, chased with diagonal lines
Condition: tiny glaze bubble on outer lip part of original process of firing;minor wear to enamels from use; some wear to gold enamel on lip.General relative condition: excellent
Provenance: Gerd Lester (1968)
Published: Treasury 6, no. 1253
Commentary This is another of the unique bottles in the Bloch Collection for which no other example of the same shape and design has come to light so far. The identity of the various figures and the story behind them remain unidentified.
There are three indications that it comes from the latter part of the reign. Although it might be looked upon as a modified meiping ('prunus-blossom vase'), it has more affiliation with a series of nineteenth-century forms broadly seen as cylindrical. Some of the bottles we have in mind are actually are cylindrical, apart from the curving of the shoulders into the narrower neck, but many are tapered or, like this one, both tapered and gently curved. But we group them together not only because they can be seen as modified cylinders; what better defines them is their lack of compression. A horizontal slice through them at any point would provide a perfect circle, which tells us that they are constructed differently from compressed forms. It is this shift in construction methods that prompted mid-Qing and nineteenth-century explorations of new forms. These forms had their origins in the late Qianlong period (see under Sale 1, lot 134, where strictly cylindrical bottles from the mid- to late-Qianlong palace are cited) but became immensely popular with the massive increase in demand seen in the mid-Qing period and the resulting mass production of porcelain snuff bottles made at Jingdezhen for a non-imperial market. If we take all the bottles of this formal range, including those in monochrome colours and with underglaze blue and red decoration, they form a significant part of nineteenth century ceramic snuff-bottle production.
A second reason to date this to the later reign is that the enamels and the style of painting are closer to known Daoguang style than to Qianlong style. If we isolate, for instance, the rocks and foliage here, they could be confidently dated to the Daoguang period; a comparison with the Daoguang-dated Treasury 6, no. 1313, suggests they may not be separated by many years.
Finally, the four-character mark is in regular script a departure from standard Jiaqing usage, but common under the Daoguang emperor, where both regular and seal script were used on imperial products. We suspect this was made in the last few years of the Jiaqing period.
It is interesting to note that legendary warriors are often shown in the Chinese visual and performing arts either bristling with flags tied to their backs or with feather headdresses almost as tall again as they are. Had they worn these symbols of martial power and leadership on the battlefield, they would have made particularly good targets.