An Update on the William Bragge Album

An Update on the William Bragge Illustrated Album, August 2018. Once in the J & J Collection an album of hand-painted illustrations of snuff bottles, rendered life-size in most cases (parts of which were illustrated, and the album discussed in Moss, Graham, Tsang, The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle , under no. 481). The illustrations are obviously done by a Western artist who did not understand Chinese as some of the reign marks, while legibly presented, are upside-down. The bottles are rendered reasonably accurately when it comes to the principal decoration, sometimes remarkably so, but minor liberties appear to have been taken with some repetitive, background details. For example, on a well known moulded porcelain bottle showing Su Shi with his friends on a boating trip to the Red Cliff (see fig. 1 from the Bloch Collection) the artist followed the main subject of figures in a boat precisely, but did not bother to follow the exact pattern of formalized waves surrounding the boat, or the positioning of the clouds above (the neck is missing from the Bragge example). The artist also tended to include more of the design than would be shown in a straight, photographic view of one side by bringing design elements that disappeared from a single view around the narrow sides of the bottle, onto the main side in the illustration to clarify the design. This may confuse initial identification, but once the trait is recognized allows it. Another feature which confuses identification is that the artist obviously had no gold water-colour pigment, so used brown instead for all gold enamel detailing. They are among the earliest pictorial records of snuff bottles in European collections, pre-dated only by a few illustrations of snuff bottles among other Chinese works of art sent back to England between 1857 and 1860 by Captain G. T. Colvile (now in the National Art Library in the Victoria & Albert Museum - see Helen