A 'famille-rose' porcelain 'figures' snuff bottle Maochun mark, Jingdezhen, 1800–1830

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Lot 46
A 'famille-rose' porcelain 'figures' snuff bottle
Maochun mark, Jingdezhen, 1800–1830

Sold for HK$ 96,000 (US$ 12,386) inc. premium
A 'famille-rose' porcelain 'figures' snuff bottle
Maochun mark, Jingdezhen, 1800–1830
7.7cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 6, no. 1264

    瓷胎畫粉彩《虯髯客傳》鼻煙壺
    景德鎮,鐵紅「茂春雅製」楷款,1800-1830

    Mao Chun's Curly Whiskers

    Famille rose enamels on colourless glaze on porcelain; with convex lip and recessed flat circular foot surrounded by a convex circular footrim; painted with a continuous design of the knight-errant known as Curly-Whiskers holding his donkey outside a residence in which Li Jing and the courtesan Hongfu nü are seen, set between a base band of formalized lotus petals and an elaborate formalized floral neck and shoulder design based on lingzhi, with pendant 'jewels' and lotus-leaf lappets; the base inscribed in iron-red enamel, Maochun yazhi ('Elegantly made by Maochun'); the lip, inner neck, and interior glazed
    Jingdezhen, 1800–1830
    Height: 7.7 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.80/1.49 cm
    Stopper: mother-of-pearl; glass collar

    Condition: kiln condition

    Provenance:
    China Guardian, 20 April 1996, lot 1903
    Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd (1999)

    Published:
    Treasury 6, no. 1264

    Commentary:
    Maochun is the name of a private Jingdezhen enameller of extraordinary talent who, unfortunately, does not reveal his family name on any of his works. There are only a few bottles known bearing his signature, mostly in famille rose enamels, although two are blue-and-white. Maochun's subject matter was somewhat limited, and this bottle and lot 47 (Treasury 6, no. 1265) are of the same subject and composition. Given the unusual artistic quality of his paintings and the fact that he signed his name, it is perhaps strange that he appears to have constantly repeated only a few compositions. Repetition is hardly surprising for a Jingdezhen craftsman. What is surprising is that he signed his works at all at a time when no other enamellers did.

    Other snuff bottles by him are in Butterfield & Butterfield, 4 November 1993, lot 1049; Geng 1992, no. 175; Shanghai International Commodity Auction Co., 30 November 1999, lot A108 (two bottles now split between the Franz Collection and the Marakovic Collection, the former piece with a rare variant of the signature in seal script, also found on one bottle in the Bloch Collection, no. 1266); and Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 3 May 1995, lot 632.

    We now think that to say Maochun worked in the second half of the nineteenth century is to place him too late. If we isolate just the window scene here, with its gilt detail on brown, the style of painting, and the quality of the enamels, it is typically Jiaqing. The elaborate bands around the neck and shoulder are also more typical of the mid-Qing than of the later nineteenth century, when elaborate borders had run their course and were largely either radically simplified or abandoned. The rare blue-and white variations represented by the next example, lot 47, Treasury 6, no. 1265, would also be anomalous for the later nineteenth century. It too has elaborate neck bands, carefully detailed and symbolically entirely legible, which is atypical for the later Qing. Although the interior of this bottle is glazed, lot 47 (Treasury 6, no. 1265) has only a splash of glaze at the base. By the Daoguang period, the insides of non-compressed forms were fully glazed as standard, whereas in the Jiaqing period the shift from unglazed interiors to glazed ones was not yet complete. The last nail in the coffin of the late-Qing attribution is the fact that all of Maochun's works are taken from popular legends or novels; these are typically Jiaqing as subject matter and become rarer after the beginning of the Daoguang period.

    Fortunately, the proof of an earlier date was published in Geng and Zhao 1992, no. 151 (subsequently sold in Hanhai, Beijing, 11 December 2000, lot 1514; also illustrated in Song Haiyang 2005, p. 40). Its shape, subject and style are identical to this bottle and it has similarly elaborate borders top and bottom. It can only have come from the same hand. The bottle bears a four-character iron-red regular script Jiaqing reign mark and is correctly dated by Geng and Zhao to the Jiaqing reign. Oddly, they dated the bottle with Maochun's signature that they illustrate a few pages further on to the Tongzhi reign – they did not notice the connection between the two.

    This also provides some clues as to what Maochun was doing at Jingdezhen. Assuming that the reign-marked example indicates an imperial product, what we appear to have here is an early instance where we can reasonably assume that an enameller from the imperial kilns also produced private wares under his own name. Whether he did so at the same time and in the same kilns or moved on to work privately afterwards is another matter. What is obvious, however, is that the works under his name are rather more impressive than the one with the imperial reign mark. The gold detailing of the woodwork in the house is absent from the imperial version, and the enamelling slightly less detailed and careful. This suggests that he was originally an imperial enameller and subsequently branched out on his own. If he had been co-opted to the imperial kilns because of the quality of his private work, it seems unlikely that he would have then allowed his standards to fall off a little. This hypothesis is confirmed by the bottle in the Marakovic Collection that is obviously by him but bears an apocryphal iron-red Yongzheng reign mark. We believe it more likely that the use of Yongzheng reign marks became popular during the Daoguang period, suggesting that Maochun worked at Jingdezhen producing initially the occasional imperial product, and then went on to work private between the Jiaqing and the early Daoguang eras.

    See lot 47 (Treasury 6, no. 1265) for the story of Curly Whiskers.

    茂春畫風塵三俠

    瓷胎無色釉上的畫琺瑯;凸唇,平面斂底,凸形圈足;畫通體《虯髯客傳》的一場,底鐵紅色楷書"茂春雅製";唇、頸內、腹內壁皆施釉
    景德鎮, 1800~1830 年
    高:7.7 厘米
    口經/唇經:0.80/1.49 厘米
    蓋:珍珠母;玻璃座

    狀態敘述:
    出窯狀態

    來源:
    中國嘉德國際拍賣有限公司,1996年4月20日,拍賣品號1903
    Hugh Moss (香港) Ltd (1999)

    文獻:
    Treasury 6, 編號1264

    說明:
    茂春是景德鎮民窯卓出的琺瑯匠,可惜已知的作品不多,也不知道他姓甚麼。其他例子和詳細論述,請參閱本壺的英文說明。

Contacts
A 'famille-rose' porcelain 'figures' snuff bottle Maochun mark, Jingdezhen, 1800–1830
A 'famille-rose' porcelain 'figures' snuff bottle Maochun mark, Jingdezhen, 1800–1830
A 'famille-rose' porcelain 'figures' snuff bottle Maochun mark, Jingdezhen, 1800–1830
A 'famille-rose' porcelain 'figures' snuff bottle Maochun mark, Jingdezhen, 1800–1830
A 'famille-rose' porcelain 'figures' snuff bottle Maochun mark, Jingdezhen, 1800–1830
A 'famille-rose' porcelain 'figures' snuff bottle Maochun mark, Jingdezhen, 1800–1830
A 'famille-rose' porcelain 'figures' snuff bottle Maochun mark, Jingdezhen, 1800–1830
A 'famille-rose' porcelain 'figures' snuff bottle Maochun mark, Jingdezhen, 1800–1830
A 'famille-rose' porcelain 'figures' snuff bottle Maochun mark, Jingdezhen, 1800–1830
A 'famille-rose' porcelain 'figures' snuff bottle Maochun mark, Jingdezhen, 1800–1830
A 'famille-rose' porcelain 'figures' snuff bottle Maochun mark, Jingdezhen, 1800–1830
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