A Beijing enamel 'millefleurs' snuff bottle Imperial, palace workshops, Qianlong blue-enamel mark and of the period, 1736–1770

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 77
A Beijing enamel 'millefleurs' snuff bottle
Imperial, palace workshops, Qianlong blue-enamel mark and of the period, 1736–1770

Sold for HK$ 4,200,000 (US$ 541,668) inc. premium
A Beijing enamel 'millefleurs' snuff bottle
Imperial, palace workshops, Qianlong blue-enamel mark and of the period, 1736–1770
5.27cm high.


  • Treasury 6, no. 1081


    Floral Abundance

    Famille rose enamels on copper, with gold; with a flat lip and concave foot surrounded by a barely protruding flat footrim; painted with a continuous millefleurs design including peonies, camellias, pear blossom, convolvulus, chrysanthemums, orchids, hydrangeas, irises, hibiscus, asters, and lilies, some with leaves, the neck with formalized floral designs, with another around the base; the foot inscribed in blue regular script Qianlong nian zhi (Made during the Qianlong period); the interior covered with an extremely patchy, misfired, turquoise-blue enamel, the exposed metal gilt
    Imperial, palace workshops, Beijing, 1736–1770
    Height: 5.27 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.80/1.25 cm
    Stopper: gilt bronze, chased with a formalized floral design; probably original
    Condition: one patch of restoration about 1 cm at its broadest extent, on the main side with the central pale greenish-white and ruby red peonies—when facing the red peony, it is below it to the right; another smaller patch of restoration low on one narrow side a little below the central yellow bloom (0.9 cm at its widest point); some scratches on the base, and with tiny, invisible scratches and abrasions from use; gilding in unusually good condition, and overall appearance excellent

    Martin Schoen
    Belle Schoen
    White Wings Collection (1993)

    Perry 1960, p. 145, fig 154
    JICSBS, Winter 1993, p. 10, fig. 10
    Kleiner 1994a, plate 3, lower-right
    JICSBS, Summer 1995, p. 35, no. 2
    Kleiner 1995, no. 9, and dust-jacket
    Kleiner 1997, no. 2
    Curtis 1999, p. 79, fig. 6
    Treasury 6, no. 1081

    British Museum, London, June–October 1995
    Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

    Flowers have always carried auspicious meaning in China, and were standard decoration in the arts long before the Qing dynasty. A profusion of flowers can be found in pre-Qing paintings and on ceramics, among many other art forms. The millefleurs pattern consisting of nothing but flowers, however, while it may find its origins in ancient China, seems to owe its popularity in the Qing period to the influence of European subject matter. European enamels from France and Italy were among the many gifts received by the Chinese court from the seventeenth century onwards, dispensed freely in an attempt to gain access to the highest levels of power on behalf of Christianity and diplomacy. It was these enamels that first inspired the Kangxi emperor to set up workshops at the palace to produce painted enamels on metal and glass and that also informed the decoration on many of them. They also inspired the early workshops in Guangzhou, where many of the gifts and most of the enamellers from Europe passed through on their way to Beijing. One only has to look at seventeenth-century European enamels to discover the reason for the sudden surge in popularity of the millefleurs design among Chinese enamellers (see, for instance, Garner 1969, plates 2 and 3). The works of Jacques Laudin (circa 1627–1695), the Limoges enameller whose works were copied at Jingdezhen in the Kangxi period, provide an excellent example. There is a two-handled saucer by him or his son (inconveniently, both went under the same name and used the same initials to sign their works) in the Musée de Louvre (Hong Kong Museum of Art and Musée Guimet 1997, no. 123). It is decorated with brightly coloured flowers on a white ground, and could easily have inspired the sort of design we see in Treasury 6, no. 1073. One only has to substitute auspicious Chinese flowers for those of France and allow for individual style in two different artists on opposite sides of the world to discern their underlying similarity.

    The present example is one of the most spectacular millefleurs designs known in Qing art and is unique among snuff bottles for its extraordinary artistry and skill. The profusion of blooms piled one on another with only a few green leaves as relief manages to avoid both confusion and a sense of excess, despite the wide range of flowers depicted. It is a difficult task, managed with astonishing compositional grace and, for the snuff-bottle world, the tour-de-force of the subject. We know that such designs were made early in the Qianlong reign. In 1737 (tenth month, eleventh day) records relating to the enamel workshop show the completion of two snuff bottles for presentation to the emperor, one of which is described as being decorated with a Baihua xianrui (One hundred auspicious flowers) design. It may have been such a bottle as this.

    As always in Chinese art, the design was intended to be read for its symbolic meaning as well as enjoyed visually, and the various flowers all carry their own meaning, but here there are so many that we are willing to pass over this and stick to the overriding symbolism of splendour and prosperity.

    There is a useful lesson for collectors to be learned from the recent history of this bottle. The collection of the legendary collector Martin Schoen passed at his death to the stewardship of his daughter Belle. Many bottles were disposed of over the years; Treasury 6, no. 1079, for example, went to Paul Bernat, another famous American collector (though of a wider range of enamelled wares). The snuff-bottle world rather lost track of the Schoen family and his bottles until Joseph Silver discovered that some of the finest still remained with his daughter. He went to visit her and pulled off one of the great recent coups among snuff-bottle collectors by buying, among other bottles, the stunning black ground, enamelled glass bottle that ended up in the J & J Collection (Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 184). Typically over-the-top, the proud new owner, at the convention of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society immediately following his coup, displayed his treasures in a rented cabinet flanked by two strapping young security guards – also rented, but this time from the Israeli Army. At the time of Silver's triumph, this bottle was also available, but he turned it down because it had small areas of enamel missing, the result of being dropped at some stage. When the late Bob Kleiner, Robert's father, got wind of the story and learned that Silver had left a major enamel behind, he flew straight to New York to see Belle Schoen and bought it. Subsequently invisibly restored, it is one of those works of art that is so exceptional that a little damage makes no difference at all to its overall appeal. The bottle is unique; no alternative perfect example could be found to lessen its reputation, and its value as a work of art remains, therefore, undiminished. Enamels on metal are particularly vulnerable to damage, since the fragile glassy surface is not particularly compatible with the metal ground, and any severe blow is almost certain to cause a flake of enamel to come away from the metal. A significant proportion of palace enamels on metal have small chips and flakes that have been restored, and if the restoration is sensitive and in no way mars the original visual appeal, it is quite acceptable and can be safely ignored in artistic terms. Today, only an optimist willing to settle for a very small collection would begin to collect imperial enamelled metal snuff bottles with a zero-restoration policy.
    Many of the finest palace enamelled metal snuff bottles have a slightly recessed foot, as discussed under the next entry, Treasury 6, no. 1082. This is an extreme example of the phenomenon, the foot being almost on the same plane as the footrim.



    高:5.27 厘米
    口經/唇經:0.80/1.25 厘米
    狀態敘述:有溺綠色和寶石紅色的牡丹那一正面有修復處, 在紅色牡丹的右下,最大的寬度約1厘米;一側面中間的黃色花下亦有修復處,其最大的寬度為0.9厘米;底有擦痕,本壺因長久的觸摸亦有常見的擦痕和碰痕,但都是肉眼所看不見的;描金的狀態異乎尋常地好,一般的外貌極善

    Martin Schoen
    Belle Schoen
    White Wings 珍藏 (1993)
    Perry 1960, 頁145, 編號154
    《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, 1993年冬期,頁10 圖10
    Kleiner 1994a, 插圖3,左下
    《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, 1995年夏期,頁35 圖2
    Kleiner 1995, 編號9、護封
    Kleiner 1997, 編號2
    Curtis 1999, 頁79,圖6
    Treasury 6, 編號1081
    大英博物館, 倫敦, 1995年6月~10月
    Israel Museum, 耶路撒冷, 1997年7 月~11月

    百花紋,清朝以前就有,百花紋在清代盛極一時,恐怕跟歐洲琺瑯彩圖案的影響有關係。十七世紀中,類似百花紋的圖案在西洋很流行( 參閱 Garner 1969, 插圖2、3),也流傳到大清帝國。陳偉、周文姬2004, 頁143說﹕"法國印度公司的商人或傳教士們把里摩日琺瑯餐具帶到廣州,然後又輾轉流傳到景德鎮,並且特地請景德鎮的匠師們模仿。在法國,發現存了景德鎮模仿里摩日琺瑯餐具的瓷碗,兩旁有把柄, 碗底畫著西洋寫生法的花籃和花卉,在花籃附近還寫著 "J L"的外文字母。根據歐洲學者們的考證,一致認為,"J L" 是里摩日17世紀琺瑯藝術家勞丁 (J. Laudin) 姓名的縮寫,因此斷定勞丁的琺瑯手工藝品也一定流傳到江西景德鎮。"


    本壺近來的經歷可給收藏家當前車之鑒。名噪一時的收藏家Martin Schoen仙逝後,他珍藏就由其女,Belle Schoen 女士,繼承。珍藏的煙壺陸陸續續變賣了;譬如,此場拍賣會的拍賣品號67是歸另一位有名聲的美國收藏家,Paul Bernat賞藏的。 過了幾年,Schoen珍藏漸漸門可羅雀了,而收藏家Joseph Silver 突然發覺Belle女士那兒還有不少精品,訪問她,果然很多卓絕群倫的鼻煙壺暴光了。繼而開了國際中國鼻煙壺協會的年會,Silver氏沾沾自喜,租了一個古玩櫃,賃了一雙以色列兵士當保安人員,擺列了他的珍寶讓到會者欽欽敬敬。但有件可觀的琺瑯煙壺,因為琺瑯有所脫落,Silver氏沒有買下。Bob Kleiner (已故,Robert Kleiner 的父親)聞風,趕快地跑到紐約去拜訪Belle女士,把那件煙壺買了,那就是本壺。本壺沒有第二件,即使有,金屬胎琺瑯器遭一點撞擊一定會有所脫落,不會保持出坊的狀態。既有脫落,細心修復對這種優秀的煙壺沒有多少影響。如今,想收藏御製金屬胎琺瑯煙壺的人,如果拒收修復過的煙壺的話,要以極小的收藏系列知足。

A Beijing enamel 'millefleurs' snuff bottle Imperial, palace workshops, Qianlong blue-enamel mark and of the period, 1736–1770
A Beijing enamel 'millefleurs' snuff bottle Imperial, palace workshops, Qianlong blue-enamel mark and of the period, 1736–1770
A Beijing enamel 'millefleurs' snuff bottle Imperial, palace workshops, Qianlong blue-enamel mark and of the period, 1736–1770
A Beijing enamel 'millefleurs' snuff bottle Imperial, palace workshops, Qianlong blue-enamel mark and of the period, 1736–1770
A Beijing enamel 'millefleurs' snuff bottle Imperial, palace workshops, Qianlong blue-enamel mark and of the period, 1736–1770
Auction information

This sale is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future sales, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this sale, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations


If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% up to HK$1,200,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from HK$1,200,001 to HK$20,000,000 of the Hammer Price
12% over HK$20,000,001 of the Hammer Price.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.