Silver and gold reticulated, Mongolian Style with dragon-panels
Lot 2
A Mongolian-style silver and gold snuff bottle Imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1750–1810
Sold for HK$ 50,400 (US$ 6,502) inc. premium
Lot Details
A Mongolian-style silver and gold snuff bottle
Imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1750–1810
6.6cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 7, no. 1634


    蒙古式銀胎描金鼻煙壺
    御製品,推定為宮廷作坊作,北京,1750~1810

    Mongolian Gift

    Silver and gold; with a slightly concave lip and protruding flat foot; an inner, plain container enclosed within a reticulated outer body, decorated on each main side with an identical circular panel containing a four-clawed dragon amidst formalized clouds, surrounded by a formalized floral scroll pattern repeated with different formulations in vertical bands on the narrow sides, and around the outer footrim and neck, the lower and upper neck with serrated bands, the main panels, neck, foot, and side bands all gilt
    Imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1750–1810
    Height: 6.6 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.58/1.92 cm
    Stopper: silver, gold, and turquoise, with turquoise beads framed in serrated rings and with a serrated collar, the metal gilt, with integral metal finial of formalized floral design inset with a coral cabochon; original
    Condition: minor natural abrasions to flat underside of silver foot. General relative condition: outstanding.

    Provenance:
    Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd. (1985)
    Published:
    Kleiner 1987, no. 247
    Arts of Asia, September-October 1990, p. 96
    Treasury 7, no. 1634
    Exhibited:
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
    Creditanstalt, Vienna, May-June 1993

    Commentary
    Only one solid gold bottle can be attributed to the palace workshops at present; a magnificent one made, apparently, to be presented to a Mongolian prince since it is in Mongolian style and is decorated with a four-clawed dragon (Hugh Moss Records). It allows us to place and date the group to which the present example belongs. The bottles of this group have, in the past, been largely dismissed as late and Mongolian. The gold bottle is decorated with an identical design to the present example, also with a four-clawed dragon, is of identical construction, with its reticulated outer body enclosing an inner container, and also has its original stopper. It can only have come from the same workshop at the same time. The gold bottle is inscribed on the foot with an impeccable, four-character Qianlong reign mark of the highest standard of calligraphy and engraving, and is unquestionably imperial and probably made in the palace workshops. The reason so magnificent a gold bottle, complete with its reign mark, should be decorated with four-clawed dragons, rather than the imperial five-clawed beast, throws considerable light on the entire group. As does the publication in more recent years of some of the artefacts from the imperial collection, including arms, saddles and the like, where some similar metalwork is in evidence from the eighteenth century, and from the imperial workshops.

    This group of bottles was designed to suit Mongolian taste, particularly evident here in the stone-encrusted stopper with two of their three favourite inlays (the third being malachite). And the probable reason for their manufacture was to curry favour with Mongolian princes and dignitaries, many of whom were granted noble titles by the eighteenth-century Qing emperors.

    The vast areas of both inner and outer Mongolia were a constant thorn in the side of the Chinese Empire, seldom far from rebellion when under Chinese control and always a threat when independent. Apart from the Russian threat on the Western borders of Mongolia, the area consisted of a host of shifting tribal loyalties and a proud, war-like people - the recipe for trouble was never far from the boil. The Qianlong emperor, with his famous campaign to the West in the late-1750s brought the troublesome tribes of Turkestan and Mongolia under control, and imposed an uneasy peace. To keep it, the Qianlong emperor treated the more important local leaders with great respect, ennobling them, granting them Chinese ranks, inviting them to meet him regularly at his hunting grounds to the north of the Great Wall (they fared badly in the relatively unhealthy climate of Beijing, falling often ill) and showering them with gifts. The gold bottle with its reign mark, and the best of the silver and gilt bottles which are never marked and which are represented by the present example, would almost certainly have been made to present to ennobled Mongolians permitted the use of the four-clawed dragon as a personal emblem of status.

    The quality of these early Mongolian style imperial presentation bottles has never been in doubt, but it has taken a little while for them to be separated from later-Qing wares of similar, but devolved style and quality. At one time the best of them were even thought to have been part of Beijing production as part of the Communist revival of the arts, when masterly technical control was re-established across a range of traditional arts.

    For a remarkably similar bottle, but missing its original stopper, see Geng Baochang and Zhao Binghua 1992, no. 393, where it is correctly dated to the Qianlong period. Three others were in Sotheby, New York, 22 November 1988, lot 79; Sotheby's, London, 5 December 1983, lot 251(a similar bottle, but with a formalized shou character in the central panel on the side shown), and Kleiner 1994, no. 79. For other related bottles, see JICSBS, Winter 1999, p. 15, figs. 20 and 21, and p. 16, figs. 22 and 23 (one of which is a bottle in brown glass cased in silver, with gilding, formerly in the Eric Young Collection - Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 28 October 1993, lot 1168 - and now in the Carl Barron Collection.) Casing bottles with filigree work was a method used elsewhere on bottles made at and for the court. There is, for instance, a magnificent amber bottle cased in gilt metal with a watch on one side which is of somewhat similar workmanship (see Christie's, Hong Kong, 31 March 2005, lot 2122). A related imperial bowl for the Qianlong emperor's own use, dated to 1766, is also illustrated in the above mentioned article ( JICSBS, Winter 1999, p. 16 fig. 22) suggesting that work in this style was already being made at the court in the mid-reign.

    蒙古賜品

    銀胎、金;微凹唇、平足;分作內外兩層,內層為實壁,外層為鏤空壁,鏤空壁兩面有開光,開光內各飾一四爪雲龍,開光外則滿飾轉枝花卉,壺側、頸、足圈外面各有稍微不同似蔓藤花紋的蟠夔紋,口緣及頸接腹處都有幾圈連珠紋,開光、頸、足、腹左右兩側帶描金

    御製品,推定為宮廷作坊作,北京,1750~1810
    高:6.6 厘米
    口經/唇經:0.58/1.92 厘米
    蓋:銀、金、綠松石,各小連珠圈中嵌有綠松石珠子,頂端的形式化花朵中還嵌有珊瑚一珠;原件
    狀態敘述:銀足上有微不足道的磨損;一般相對的狀況:卓絕

    來源:
    Hugh Moss (香港) Ltd

    文獻:
    Kleiner 1987, 編號247
    Arts of Asia, September–October 1990, 頁96
    Treasury 7, 編號1634

    展覽:
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd, 倫敦, October 1987
    Creditanstalt, 維也納, 1993年5月~6月

    說明:
    如今只有一個純金鼻煙壺能夠歸功於宮廷。看它也有四爪龍,且具有精巧華麗的蒙古形式,我們認為是賜於蒙古王公的(據莫士撝未付梓知見錄)。那件純金煙壺的結構、鏤空外層、四爪龍等,都與本壺一致,這意味著兩壺是在同一個作坊、約同時作的。而黃金的煙壺底刻有書法、雕刻水平最高的《乾隆年製》一款,必定是造辦處的產品。就朝服而言,四爪龍補服圖案是貝勒、貝子、封過鎮國公或輔國公的人才能用,我們可以推測,如此光彩耀目的煙壺是頒賜乾隆皇帝特別重視的貝勒或貝子,或許是想收服他,或許是褒寵勞臣。參照最近幾年發表過作於十八世紀宮廷作坊的具有類似金屬工藝的馬鞍、武器等故宮文物,再考慮蒙古族最珍惜這種金屬工藝,我們可以進一步說頒賜的對象大概是蒙古族的重要人物。本壺原配蓋上還鑲嵌了蒙古族最喜愛的三種鑲嵌物之二(第三個是孔雀石)。總之,恩賜那個乾隆款黃金煙壺和本壺所代表的一系列不帶款的銀壺和描金壺,肯定是乾隆皇帝讓蒙古族領導歸附大清帝國的種種手段之一。

    從來沒有人懷疑過這些早期蒙古式鼻煙壺的品質,但是往往有人把它們和晚清類似而稍微退化的煙壺混同,有時也把它們和解放後北京工藝作坊出產的品質很高、類型相近的煙壺混雜了。

    特別相像而不帶原蓋的煙壺發表在耿寶昌、趙炳驊,《中國鼻煙壺珍賞》,編號393, 正確地確定為乾隆中作。另外有蘇富比,紐約1998年11 月22 日,拍賣品號79,蘇富比,倫敦1983年12月5 日拍賣品號251(類型相近而照片中的開光中有壽字),和 Kleiner 1995, 編號79。其他有關的曾發表在《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, 1999 冬期,頁15 ,圖20,21;頁16 ,圖22,23。(其中之一是用銀絲網包裝的褐色玻璃壺,原Eric Young珍藏所收,後轉蘇富比,香港1993年十月28日,拍賣品號1168,今Carl Barron珍藏所收。)別的在朝廷作坊作的煙壺和進貢朝廷的煙壺也有用銀絲網包裝的。譬如佳士得,香港2005年3 月31日,拍賣品號2122:一面上裝飾錶面的壯麗的琥珀壺。還有上提Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society 的報告中的圖22 ,是1766年作的乾隆皇帝御用碗,這表明到了乾隆中期朝廷作坊已經有工藝美術師在作相關的物品。
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