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    Sale 2389

    Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art

    27 November 2007, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1671

    AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE EUROPEAN PEARL-EMBELLISHED 18 ct. GOLD-ENAMELLED SNUFF BOTTLE WITH A FITTED WATCH MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE EUROPEAN PEARL-EMBELLISHED 18 ct. GOLD-ENAMELLED SNUFF BOTTLE WITH A FITTED WATCH MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET
    CIRCA 1810

    The bottle of slightly compressed ovoid form, each side embellished with a scalloped-shaped panel exquisitely painted in polychrome enamels to depict a floral bouquet, set within a single row of graduated pearls forming a border, the reverse side similarly decorated, all above a band formed by feathery foliage above the base, finely detailed with vertical rows of pearls emerging from delicate white-enamelled semi-circles, against a transparent ruby-red enamel revealing the floral decorated body, the neck and broad mouth rim enamelled in black reserving the incised gold rosettes; the matching spoon similarly designed and accommodating a watch, protected under a hinged domed glass cover with pearl-set bezel, the watch face with Roman chapters, outer minute divisions, hinged to the casing, opening to reveal gilt brass full plate engraved with 'A' and 'R', with cylindrical pillars, fusee and chain, verge escapement, plain brass balance, continental cock, box
    2½ in. (6.3 cm.), high


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    The engraving on the back plate denotes: A, 'Avant', and 'R', 'Retard': for the purpose of altering the movement of the mechanisms.

    Existing examples this type of snuff bottles made for the Chinese market are extremely rare. Compare with three very similar snuff bottles, the first two examples are both decorated with quatrelobed panels, instead of the scalloped-form panels as with the present bottle, and enamelled on blue-ground, included in the exhibition, Snuff Bottles in the Collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1991, nos. 23 (see fig. 1) and 24. The third on a green-enamel ground and with oval panels, from the Sandberg Watch Collection, sold at Antiquorum, Geneva, 31 March 2001, lot 50.

    All three cited examples and the present bottle are likely to be from the same workshop in Geneva, Switzerland, and were exported to China where they were likely to be presented to the Qing court. Compare the enamelling of the flowers with those painted on a pocket watch in the Beijing Palace Museum, which was produced in 1820 and identified as a timepiece that was made in the factory established by Edouard Bovet, included in the exhibition, Moments of Eternity, Macau, and illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 78 (see fig. 2).

    It is interesting to note the basse-taille, 'low cut', design used to decorate the body of the snuff bottle. This enamelling technique was first developed in 13th century Italy; the method involves a design being engraved or carved in low relief onto a metal body after which a transparent vitreous enamel is applied over the surface resulting in an impressive and effective play of light on the design. The basse-taille technique was adopted by artisans in Guangzhou in the 18th century, and a number of this type of enamelled wares were sent as tributes to the Palace, cf. a blue-enamelled basin, illustrated by Yang Boda, Tributes from Guangdong to the Qing Court, Hong Kong, 1987, p. 89, no. 56 (see fig. 3).

    Pre-Lot Text

    THE PROPERTY OF A LADY