A 'famille-rose' enamel on copper with gold 'figures in mansion' snuff bottle
Imperial, palace workshops, Beijing, Kangxi blue-enamelled four-character mark and of the period, 17051718 4.9cm high.
Treasury 6, no. 1064
A 'famille-rose' enamelled copper 'figures in mansion' snuff bottle
Famille rose enamels on copper, with gold; with a flat lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; painted on each main side with a foliate panel, one with two women and two young boys in the garden of a waterside pavilion, the other with a young woman standing pensively, her right hand resting on the back of a bench seat placed in front of a marble-topped painting table, the panels surrounded by a design of scrolling formalized flowers; the foot inscribed in variegated blue, green, black, and reddish-brown regular script, Kangxi yuzhi ('Made by Imperial command of the Kangxi emperor'), the interior covered with a patchy, pale turquoise-blue enamel, the exposed lip and inner neck with traces of original gilding Imperial, palace workshops, Beijing, 17051718 Height: 4.9 cm Mouth/lip: 0.67/1.22 cm Stopper: gilt bronze, chased with a formalized floral design; possibly original
Condition: Tiny chip restored above footrim, with a larger bruised area partially repainted above it on narrow side (covering an area of about 1.7 x .8 cm overall); gilding all worn, and some green encrustation to the copper body
Provenance: Robert Hall (1987)
Published: Orientations, October 1987, p. 72 Arts of Asia, SeptemberOctober 1990, p. 96 Hall 1987,no. 68 Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 2 Kleiner 1995, no. 2 Treasury 6, no. 1064
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
The Kangxi emperor is on record as not being fond of figure subjects. The present subject, showing women and children at leisure in what is probably an idealized representation of the women's quarters of a palace, is unique among Kangxi enamels.
It is safe to assume that this is among the earlier examples from the group of Kangxi enamelled-metal wares. The palette consists mainly of traditional famille verte colours with the addition of only a dull, pale pink (remarkably similar in colour and texture to that on Sale 3, lot 73), and a slightly pastel yellow, which may be either a development of cloisonné enamels or an imported colour. If it is the latter, the scarcity of imported enamels and the keen demand for them would account for their sparing use on early wares.
The subject matter is another indication of an early date. Atypical of the established output of the Kangxi workshops, the article was probably produced experimentally before the emperor imposed his preference for floral subjects. It is significant that on wares other than snuff, landscape designs in which the landscape is the main subject are all from the earliest, experimental output of the palace enamellers. Once production transcended experimentation and settled into standard production, Imperial preference for floral subjects became obvious.
The third indication of a very early date is the mark. It is atypical, appearing at first glance to be in a rather strange black enamel, but under magnification the lines are revealed to be variegated; the colour has broken down into green and blue with some black speckling, and with distinct areas of brick red. It is a clear indication of an early, experimental use of the enamels in mark writing. The fact that the mark is large in relation to the foot, touching the footrim in several places, is another indication of a mark writer testing the options from which a standard could evolve.
The stopper is possibly the original. Apart from being a good match, it has the same distinctive design chased on it as Sale 4, lot 166, which must be the original (and even retains what appears to be its original spoon). They are distinguished by a central finial surrounded by radiating broad petals, from which tendrils hang down towards the integral collar.