Lot 159
  • 159


30,000 - 40,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • porcelain


Robert Hall, 1993.


Hugh Moss, Victor Graham and Ka Bo Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles: The Mary and George Bloch Collection, vol. 6, Hong Kong, 2007, no. 1254.

Catalogue Note

Two-character marks are extremely rare on genuine wares, although they are not unknown on porcelain snuff bottles from the Qianlong, Jiaqing, and Daoguang reigns. They occur more often on obvious post-1860 bottles from China or Japan.

Here, however, there is an exceptional and obvious reason for the two-character form: there is no room to combine four characters with legibility. The bottle is tiny. Not quite as small as lot 164 in this sale , but there is a major difference between the two. The main justification for lot 164 is its tiny size; the form and decoration are secondary, and the mark abbreviated and illegible. In a sense, the present bottle is the more authentic miniature. Every aspect of a normal-sized bottle has been reduced with no loss of formal elegance or painterly panache. One can apply the same fundamental test of miniature art that works on inside-painted bottles: if the painting is blown up to the scale of a hanging scroll, does it still stand up as art? This one does; lot 164, as much as it may qualify for the record books for its diminutive dimensions, does not. If one increases this one to normal size, it is still of an extremely elegant form decorated in charming, painterly, and literate style. Intriguingly, it is also very thinly potted, as if the maker had this very exercise in mind. To truly miniaturize a work of art, one has to reduce everything to equal scale, and the thinness of the walls here suggests that the maker recognized this fact: if doubled in size, the walls of this little gem would be of the standard thickness for a normal-sized bottle.

Apart from its rarity as a high-quality, enamelled porcelain miniature, this bottle also has rarity of decoration in its favour. It is essentially an ink painting with a gold frame around it, with even the surrounding formalised floral decoration simply in black. As such, it is extremely rare. There are other ‘ink paintings’ in the field of porcelain snuff bottles, but they are nearly always, like lot 154 in this sale, combined with coloured surrounds of some sort. This ranks as one of the finest miniature porcelain bottles known and is of compelling quality even regardless of its size.

Although it has been left open the entire Jiaqing reign as a possible period of production, this probably dates from early in the reign because of its similarity to late-Qianlong style. The unglazed interior would also be consistent with a date from early in the reign.