Gourd and ivory; with a flat lip with a slight concavity near the mouth, and protruding flat foot; from a four-part primary mould, each of the four segments (two on each main side) with a different auspicious motif, one with a flying bat, one with a branch bearing two citrons, one with a fan, and one with a beribboned hanging musical chime; the neck with an eternal-knot design on each main side; the lip and upper neck rim in ivory Imperial, palace workshops, Beijing, 17801850 (the ivory lip and inner neck a recent addition) Height: 6.28 cm Mouth/lip: 0.69/2.10 cm Stopper: ivory, carved as a sleeping dog; plastic collar
Condition: Ivory lip a later addition; otherwise, workshop condition
Provenance: Wang Shixiang, Beijing Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd (2000)
Published: Wang Shixiang 1993, p. 217, plate 37. JICSBS, Winter 1997, p. 9, fig. 17 JICSBS, Autumn 1999, p 30, fig. 30 Qiu Donglian 2000, 188, top left Treasury 7, no. 1507
The citrons were identified as berries in Treasury 7, but they are in fact juyuan, citron. The rebus in the four main elements of the design here is Fu yuan shanqing, 'Bat citron fan musical-stone'→ 'Good fortune comes from good deeds'.
When this bottle was owned by Wang Shixiang and illustrated in his Shuo hulu, it had neither the ivory lip nor the present stopper. The wide mouth and very thin lip suggest that it must originally have been intended to have some sort of additional lip and inner neck fitting, and ivory seems to have been the standard. Whether its ivory neck was ever fitted, however, is another matter. With an art form in which the wood panels were carved by craftsmen in the palace workshops, the gourds grown under the supervision of eunuchs in the palace gardens, and the finished products sent, presumably, to the ivory workshop to be fitted with their protective lips, there is always a chance that some examples never made it through the entire process. Both the lip and the stopper were added recently, the delightfully well-carved sleeping dog on the stopper having waited patiently for a quarter of a century in a drawer full of spare stoppers before finding a new home on this bottle.
Wang Shixiang dated this example to the Daoguang period, and we believe, as always, that he is probably correct, but we have left a little leeway.