This elongated oval form is a typically southern one that, if the attribution of the group represented by Sale 7, lot 138 is correct, does not occur from the palace workshops. It is usually accompanied by a wide mouth. A thicker body wall would make the mouth opening smaller, but the mouth was simply the terminus of the neck and had the same inside diameter. It was not until the mid-Qianlong reign that a separate metal ‘washer’ was commonly soldered to the neck to form a lip with a smaller mouth.
The mark here is the standard brownish-black, four-character version found on Guangzhou enamels of the Yongzheng and subsequent Qianlong periods, written in regular script, of which function is to identify the piece as a product of the Yongzheng era.
The Yongzheng enamels on metal with symbolic subjects, including various flora and fauna in a landscape setting, did not aspire to high art, as did so much of the Beijing palace output. Their scenes are charming, but the intent is decorative and symbolic, and they were painted by local craftsmen, not master artists. Thanks to the lesser formality, however, the brushwork on these southern bottles is often delightfully spontaneous and uninhibited.
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