During the early decades of the Qianlong reign, no expense was spared in developing the Palace enameling facities, and the most skilled enamelers were enlisted to produce masterpieces. By the 1750s and 1760s, fiscal cutbacks were imposed and as a gradual process, the enameling arts shifted from high art to more decorative intent. Repetition, which usually accompanies more decorative intent, began to creep in with the same designs ordered by the Court over and over again. Attributed to this group is a small group of landscape designs of these same two scenes with faux-puddingstone surrounds. They were previously thought to be by Ye Bengqi, the well-known faker of Qianlong enamels of the early twentieth century, but when interviewed at length in 1974 by Hugh Moss, he stated emphatically that he never did landscape designs. Shown an example of this group, he said they were not by him or his family, but probably genuine.
Photographs of this small group were also shown to Wang Xisan, Ye's principal enamel student and a leading expert on the subject, who also confirmed their authenticity. Present opinion inclines towards the belief that these bottles are part of a small group of mid, to late Qianlong versions of a tiny group of early Qianlong Palace enameled bottles with landscape designs, some with inscriptions (see lot 307 in this sale; another, formerly from the Meriem Collection, sold in these rooms, 19 September 2007, lot 629; and one sold at Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 28 October 1993, lot 1269).
The puddingstone grounds on the bottle here and on others from the same group (see Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 5 May 1994, lot 1323; and JICSBS, June 1976, p. 24, lower-left, from the Linda Riddell Collection) adapt the naturalistic grounds found on some early Qianlong works (see, for instance, Snuff Bottles in the Collection of the National Palace Museum, no. 62, which has a faux wood grain surround). While early Qianlong enameled glass bottles have either very flat blue-enamel marks, or ones barely in relief, from the mid- to later reign the marks are much thicker, with the blue left in noticeable relief, as here.
A related small white glass cup enameled with a similar subject, with a four-character, raised, blue-enamel mark, formerly from the Jingguantang Collection, was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 3 November 1996, lot 509 (see fig. 1). There is also a Palace glass vase enameled with similar figures in a landscape and neck-band and shoulder borders typical of mid- to late-Qianlong Palace production, sold Sotheby's, New York, 27 March 2003, lot 58.