A moulded 'famille-rose' porcelain 'bat and peach' snuff bottle
Imperial kilns, Jingdezhen, Qianlong underglaze-blue four-character seal mark and of the period, 17701799 6.61cm high.
Treasury 6, no. 1161
A moulded famille rose porcelain 'bat and peach' snuff bottle
Famille rose enamels on colourless glaze on cobalt on porcelain; with a flat lip and convex rectangular foot; each side with a slightly recessed convex panel showing identical moulded scenes of a bat flying near a peach tree that bears nine peaches and grows from a rocky promontory projecting from the left into formalized waves, among which float three blossoms, the panels surrounded by an underglaze blue formalized floral design detailed in gold enamel; the lip with a pale-brown glaze painted with gold enamel, the foot inscribed in underglaze blue seal script Qianlong nian zhi ('Made during the Qianlong period'), the interior unglazed Imperial kilns, Jingdezhen, 17701799 Height: 6.61 cm Mouth/lip: 0.69/1.7 cm Stopper: Colourless glaze on cobalt on porcelain, moulded with a formalized chrysanthemum design; John Charlton, London, circa 1972
Condition: chip in the lip restored (size of chip unknown, but paint extends about 1.5 cm around outer lip and down the neck about 0.5 cm);some wear and abrasions to protruding relief areas; gold enamel on lip worn
Provenance: Sotheby's, Hong Kong,28 October 1992, lot 470
Published: Kleiner 1994, no. 140 Kleiner 1995, no. 195 JICSBS, Spring 2004, p. 11, fig. 28 JICSBS, Spring 2007, p. 29, fig. 16 Treasury 6, no. 1161
Exhibited: Hong Kong Museum of Art, MarchJune 1994 National Museum of Singapore, November 1994February 1995 British Museum, London, JuneOctober 1995 Israel Museum, Jerusalem, JulyNovember 1997
Commentary At some time during the second half of the Qianlong reign, two developments in ceramic snuff-bottle production took place. The first was when potters at Jingdezhen combined underglaze blue decoration with famille rose enamels, often with gold enamel painted over the underglaze blue design to sharpen the detail and overcome the problem of the cobalt pigment diffusing into the glaze. This problem is illustrated here by the reign mark, which has diffused to the point where the characters become difficult to decipher. The second was a rapid increase in the popularity of moulded relief detail and the creative applications of this technique. Here we see an early example in this evolution: nearly the entire design is moulded in relief, but it is still on the standard flattened bottle used for single-plane decoration.
A date from the second half of the Qianlong reign seems assured for this bottle; we can narrow this to the last decade or two with confidence supported by the unglazed interior but tempered by the fact that we are not sure exactly when during the mid-Qianlong period this became the standard.
Radically flattened forms with flared necks were obviously popular during the second half of the Qianlong reign, so it is no surprise to find these features as part of some of the earlier experiments with moulding. Since the main decoration is all dictated by the mould in this case, it would have been possible to make multiple bottles with identical designs. In this case, both sides seem to have been taken from the same mould, which would also be an obvious option for bottles with the same design on each main side.
This popular design appears on a number of surviving examples with moulded relief. In cases where enamelled detail is subsequently added by hand, it is sometimes difficult to judge accurately from illustrations whether the same mould has been used. One, with an iron-red design surrounding the panels, appears in the Bragge Album; this volume of hand-drawn illustrations was formerly in the J & J Collection and is now part of the Franz Collection (see Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 481, and for a more recent article on the album, JICSBS, Winter 2006). Others are known with this design on one side and narcissus, lingzhi, and bamboo on the other see, for instance, Sin, Hui, and Kwong, no. 107, and Low 2002, no. 163.