An iron-red enamel on porcelain 'Zhong Kui' snuff bottle
Jingdezhen, 18301860 5.6cm high.
Treasury 6, no. 1309
An iron-red enamelled porcelain 'Zhong Kui' snuff bottle
Iron-red and black enamels on colourless glaze on porcelain; with a convex lip, each main side with a raised flat circular panel surrounded by radiating lines; painted with a scene that is continuous but grouped so the figures are on the flat panels on the two main sides, these figures being Zhong Kui dressed as a scholar, the two demons who carry him in a sedan chair as he holds a fan up to his face, and two demons on the other main side carrying lanterns, both of which are inscribed jinshi, although on one it is written upside down; the eyes of the figures painted in black enamel Jingdezhen, 18301860 Height: 5.6 cm Mouth/lip: 0.58/1.18 cm Stopper: coral; stained bone collar
Condition: Kiln condition
Provenance: Unrecorded Hong Kong dealer (1982)
Published: Treasury 6, no. 1309
This shape appears to be derived from that of a European watch. It is defined by a raised panel and a series of closely-set lines radiating a little outwards all around the panels. The form seems to have remained popular into the second half of the nineteenth century; there are examples known that are convincingly Daoguang, and others that can hardly be earlier than the second half of the century (see for instance Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 21 November 1974, lot 30, with Pekinese dogs typical of the Guangxu period). It is possible that Daoguang enamelling style remained constant for a while after the end of the reign, and that this dates from after 1850, but it is far more likely that it was bottles such as this that found favour during the latter part of the Daoguang reign and inspired continued production into the later nineteenth century.
The muscles on the little demons here are highly formalized. The more a commercial decorator repeats a subject, the more he is likely to stylize the details, becoming increasingly decorative and clichéd. In all other respects, the subject is delightful and the painting excellent, so a date late in the Daoguang would be reasonable and allow for others of this shape to run into the second half of the nineteenth century.
This is another of the Daoguang bottles that has the unusual feature of an unglazed interior. This happens more often on compressed than uncompressed forms in the Daoguang and later periods, but is still the exception.
Another example apparently from the same mould, or at least of the same form, with an Imperial five-clawed dragon and fenghuang design, is in Hui and Sin 1994, no. 22, while another, in the Denis Low Collection, has a monkey in a pine tree on one side and a European watch face on the other, yet again endorsing our proposed origin of the species (Low 2002, no. 179).