The inscription at the shoulder reads Guangdong shisan hang, which translates as "the thirteen factories of Guangdong Province", the characters at the base read bao zhu li ji, "recorded by precious jewel Li". The factories referred to in the inscription are the foreign factories, or Hongs, in Canton.
The only other recorded bottle with this design, from the Mottahedeh Collection, is illustrated by D. Howard & J. Ayers, op.cit., vol.I, p.210, no.208. The Mottahedeh bottle was exhibited in 'The China Trade: Romance and Reality', De Cordova Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts, 1979, Catalogue, p.51, where the guest curator, Kee Il Choi, Jr., while agreeing with Messrs. Howard and Ayers that the buildings depicted on this bottle, as on the present lot, represent the factories rebuilt after the great fire in 1822, goes on to discuss the probability that the two wider 'Shanghai' style factories and the Anglican church depicted on the bottle were in fact erected between 1847 and 1856. He compares an oil on canvas in the Vivian Young Collection and a gouache by Tinqua in the Museum of the American China Trade, both of which depict the same buildings as those on the bottle.
From about 1760, the Canton waterfront has repeatedly been depicted on oil paintings, watercolours, engravings, porcelain bowls, and fans; however, the bowls were not copied from life but from paintings or engravings, often of an earlier date. Dating these pieces based on architectural details or the nationality of the flags is therefore difficult. See C. L. Crossman, op.cit., 1991, pp. 423 - 435 for a discussion on the dating of views of Canton. Interestingly, the only known invoice for the bowls shows that in 1785, Captain Green of the Empress of China, the first American vessel to trade direct with China, brought back four bowls. American flags started appearing on these bowls in about 1788.
Although only one other such bottle is known, several punchbowls depicting Hongs are recorded. Examples of such bowls, normally decorated in famille rose enamels, are illustrated by D. Howard & J. Ayers, op.cit., vol.I, p.209, no.207; by R. Krahl and J. Harrison-Hall, op.cit., pp.84 and 85, no. 34, and pp.82 and 83, no.33 (for a grisaille-decorated bowl); by C. Le Corbeiller, op.cit., pp.115 - 117, no.49; by G. A. Godden, op.cit., p.101, pl.16; by D. S. Howard, op.cit., 1994, p.201, no.233; and by J. G. Phillips, op.cit., pp.14 and 15, fig.8.