They also introduce a new method of decorating with enamels: a monochrome enamel ground is engraved with a pattern that allows the white underlayer of enamel to show through and contribute to the design. This was apparently one of many innovations from Tang Ying’s superintendence of the imperial kilns.
The mark here was apparently written with black or dark-blue enamel on a transparent enamel ground, although the darker pigment has eaten into the enamel to such an extent that it gives the impression of being beneath it. Stylistically, the bottle is typical of Guangzhou, and the seal-script mark is unlikely for a Beijing palace enamel, where regular script was the standard calligraphy for marks; the bottle may be an early-Qianlong order from Guangzhou.
While it is true that the Qianlong chenhan seal is rare on snuff bottles, it does appear quite frequently on other ceramics produced for the emperor—some bearing his poems, and most associated with Tang Ying’s directorship of the imperial kilns. Qianlong chenhan appears four times on one piece in the imperial collection, albeit separated into two seals, one above the other, which the relative surplus of space allowed. Another pair of vases has the seals after an imperial poem written in 1736. The Qianlong chenhan seal can be associated with Jingdezhen production in 1742 and 1743. In private correspondence with Peter Lam, the archives show that six pairs of wall vases (sometimes referred to as ‘sedan-chair vases’ because they were sometimes hung on the wall of an enclosed sedan-chair to hold flowers) were ordered with imperial poems and this seal. One is in the National Palace Museum.
The poem reads
Crying cicadas clutch the sparse branches.
A white boat sails leisurely on the clear rapids.
The wind and dew, with morning, are chill and light.
I stretch my gaze beyond the empty sky.
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