A 'famille-rose' porcelain 'Queen Victoria' snuff bottle
Imperial kilns, Jingdezhen, Daoguang iron-red four-character seal mark and of the period, 18211850 Sold with accompanying watercolour by Peter Suart. 5.29cm high.
Treasury 6, no. 1324
A famille rose porcelain 'Queen Victoria' Snuff Bottle
Famille rose enamels on colourless glaze on porcelain; with a slightly convex lip and recessed, flat foot surrounded by a protruding, convex footrim; painted on one main side with Queen Victoria holding a sceptre and seated on a throne on a raised dais surrounded by five courtiers, one kneeling to kiss her hand, and on the other side with a Chinese junk converted into a paddle steamer manned by a crew of five European sailors, one firing a rifle, one blowing a large horn, and one stoking an open fire on the deck; the foot inscribed in iron-red seal script, Daoguang nian zhi ('Made during the Daoguang period'); the lip, inner neck, and interior glazed Imperial kilns, Jingdezhen, 18401850 Height: 5.29 cm Mouth/lip: 0.72/1.88 cm Stopper: lapis lazuli, carved with a coiled chi dragon; silver collar
Condition:very minor scratches and abrasions from use, barely visible and not at all obtrusive; otherwise in kiln condition
Provenance: Robert Hall (1987)
Published: Hall 1987, no. 60 Treasury 6, no. 1324
Commentary This bottle belongs to a small group of imperial Daoguang porcelain snuff bottles depicting Queen Victoria, complete with crown and sceptre, seated on a throne. Confidently dated to the last decade of the reign, they demonstrate how a very high level of porcelain production for the court continued throughout the reign. We discussed the group in Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993(no. 218), but since then we have been able to locate the origin of the scene depicting Queen Victoria. A pair of Chinese paintings in ink and watercolours was offered in Sotheby's, London, 13 July 2005, lot 230 (also published in Martyn Gregory Gallery 1997,no. 88, and Patrick Connor, 'Western Themes in Chinese Design'). One of these is of the same subject and is accompanied by a lengthy inscription that reads:
In the gengzi year (1840) of the Daoguang reign of the Qing dynasty, the Siming Army captured the English commander Anshi dela, also known as An Tede. He was good at drawing and all the pictures of English capital and palace were done by him. This is a picture of the court. In the middle sits the Queen with her Ministers beside her. In front of her stands her husband. Because the late King William IV had no son, his niece, Queen Victoria, came to the throne. She succeeded to the throne in the wuxu year (1838). She was only nineteen years old and the following year she married Prince Albert. For any State affairs, the Queen consulted two ministers while Albert was not involved. When the Queen was at court, her Ministers knelt down on one knee with their hats off and smelled the Queen's hand before getting up to give their report. It was the most polite and respectful form of manners. The Ministers wore blue costumes and the Generals wore deep red with gold embroidery on their shoulders and different belts to distinguish their ranks.
In fact, ministers knelt to kiss the hand of the Queen, but this was lost in translation. Anshi dela, or An Tede, is identified by Patrick Connor (op. cit.), although he was more tentative than he need have been. An Tede is an obvious transliteration of Anstruther, who Connor identifies as Captain P. Anstruther of the Madras Artillery, a large, red bearded man who matched the Chinese notion of Europeans in general as red-haired barbarians. Like many artillery officers, Anstruther was an able draftsman, and Connor tells us of the circumstances that led to his drawing the original scene from which the Chinese painting was taken.
'...after the British capture of Tinghai (some eighty miles southeast of Shanghai) he made a habit of walking in the hills nearby to survey the countryside. He became a favourite with the local villagers, whose likenesses he would sketch as they gathered around him. On September 16, 1840, he ventured too far from camp and was captured by Chinese soldiers. His Indian servant was killed, and he was brought in irons to the city of Ningbo. There his artistic talents proved useful. Whenquestioned about the British steamers that had made a powerful impression on the Chinese in recent engagements with their fleets of junks, he offered to draw one, which won him hot water; dinner, and a larger cage. Subsequently he obliged his captors with drawings of all kinds of creatures and articles that were unfamiliar to them. When a British force finally marched into Ningbo, they found Anstruther's cell, complete with many of the drawings with which he had passed the time all over his cell walls.
The other of the pair of paintings shows a kneeling man offering a large red snake to the Queen. The inscriptions are signed by Huang Mian of Changsha, and since the paintings are obviously by a Chinese hand, on xuan paper, and employing typically unscientific Chinese perspective, we may assume that he copied them from originals done by Anstruther. We may also assume that there were many more, since these two are numbered in Chinese on the reverse seventeen and eighteen. Copying Anstruther's originals would have been a strategic measure. The Chinese were fighting the first of the Opium Wars at the time. Faced with superior and well-armed European steamships that could out-manoeuvre their junks both at sea and, crucially, inland on rivers, they were finally being forced to take Europeans seriously. Anstruther was feeding their sudden thirst for information, and it was natural that copies of all his drawings, along with translations of his descriptions, were made by the local officials immediately for transmission to the court.
The Daoguang emperor was obviously sufficiently intrigued by the scene of the distant queen and her courtiers to order various sets of porcelain snuff bottles made at Jingdezhen for distribution, although presumably that did not happen while hostilities between the two nations continued.
The bottles with inscriptions are signed 'Written by Wu Peishan, a native ofJiangxia', suggesting that either he was the Jingdezhen enameller who wrote the inscriptions, or that the version of Anstruther's drawing sent to Jingdezhen had been copied by a Wu Peishan. The latter is more likely, since it was not the usual practice for unimportant enamellers from Jingdezhen to be identified on imperial works of art.
It was not only the meaning of raising the royal hand to one's lips that was lost in translation. In passing through various interpretations between Anstruther's original and the Chinese version presented to the enamellers at Jingdezhen, the clothing of the participants underwent an amusing transformation. The stiff, formal wear of the court and the impressive military uniforms have been modified to look a bit more like 'proper' court attire from a Chinese point of view, with the result that they resemble belted floral-print pyjamas with shoulder straps and Sam Browne belts. (The latter are over the wrong shoulder.Note, too, that this bottle predates the supposed invention of the belt by Sir Samuel James Browne; the belt was also known in America before Browne was born.) Tridents have replaced swords, and they are worn on the side facing away from the viewer; the officer on our right, who must be left-handed, is the only one who gets any support from his Sam Browne belt in suspending the thing.
On the opposite main side, some of the group have the paddle-wheel junk, some an inscription, and some a further group of Europeans, apparently playing croquet. The bottles with the ship on the reverse depict a paddle-wheel Chinese junk with a funnel and masts with a varying number of foreign crew members distinguished by their curly, auburn-coloured hair possibly all modelled on the appearance of Anstruther as a stereotypical European.
For other similar bottles decorated with Queen Victoria on one side and the paddle-wheel junk on the other, see JICSBS, December 1977, p. 17, figs. 11 and 12; Sotheby's, New York, 22 November 1988, lot 53; Christie's, New York, 21 September 1995, lot 304; Sotheby's, London, 3 December 1997, lot 463; Christie's, London, 10 December 1982, lot 3; Kleiner 1995, no. 231 (since disposed of by the Blochs in the light of the present, better example); JICSBS, Spring 1999, p. 31, figs. 5 and 6; Hall 1987,no. 60; JICSBS, June 1981, p. 9, fig. 14; Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 218 (where the subjects are discussed further); Lawrence 1996, no. 91, and Sotheby's, Olympia, 13 June 2003, lot 810. One of the closest in composition and detail to this one, on both sides, was in Sotheby's, London, 21 June 1995, lot 160.
Examples with the inscription on the back instead of the junk are in JICSBS, June 1981, pp. 7 and 8; JICSBS, March 1976, p. 18, figs. 98 and 99 (from the Cussons Collection); Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 30 October 2000, lot 519 (from the Guo'an Collection), and JICSBS, June 1976, p. 8, figs. 11a11c. An illustration where only the side with the Queen is shown is inKleiner 1994a, p. 31, fig. 4.1