An inside-painted rock-crystal snuff bottle Ma Shaoxuan, probably 1898 or 1899
Lot 24
An inside-painted rock-crystal snuff bottle
Ma Shaoxuan, probably 1898 or 1899
Sold for HK$ 228,000 (US$ 29,063) inc. premium

Lot Details
An inside-painted rock-crystal snuff bottle Ma Shaoxuan, probably 1898 or 1899 An inside-painted rock-crystal snuff bottle Ma Shaoxuan, probably 1898 or 1899 An inside-painted rock-crystal snuff bottle Ma Shaoxuan, probably 1898 or 1899 An inside-painted rock-crystal snuff bottle Ma Shaoxuan, probably 1898 or 1899 An inside-painted rock-crystal snuff bottle Ma Shaoxuan, probably 1898 or 1899
An inside-painted rock-crystal snuff bottle
Ma Shaoxuan, probably 1898 or 1899
6.5cm high.


  • Treasury 4, no. 597


    The Filial Piety of Wang Xiang

    Flawless crystal, ink, and watercolours; with a slightly concave lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding broad, flat footrim; painted on one main side with Wang Xiang sitting on cracked ice among reeds with two fish beside him, accompanied by a descriptive poem, followed by the signature 'Executed by Ma Shaoxuan', with two seals of the artist in negative seal script, the first illegible, the second, Shao, also in negative seal script, the other main side with a katydid feeding on a cabbage beside a radish, a clump of narcissus beyond, inscribed in draft script with a poem about the subject, followed by the signature, Ma Shaoxuan, with one seal of the artist, Shaoxuan, in negative seal script

    Ma Shaoxuan, Studio for Listening to the Qin, Ox Street district, Beijing
    Height: 6.5 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.55/1.70 cm
    Stopper: coral, carved with a coiled chi dragon, with integral collar; gilt-bronze finial
    Condition: Bottle: slightly irregular cylinder of neck and slightly bevelled outer lip suggest chips may have been polished out of outer edge, but successfully done; two miniscule indentations on footrim suggest it may have been reduced very slightly to hide chips, but possibly not. Painting: very slight snuff staining to the cream colour of the figure's trousers, but otherwise in remarkably good condition. General relative condition: extremely good

    John Sparks Ltd. (London, circa 1962)
    Hugh Moss (1980)
    Gerd Lester (1986)

    Chinese Snuff Bottles No. 2, p. 47, fig. 12
    The Connoisseur, February 1966, p. 111
    Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, no. 234
    Lester 1981, p. 35, lower left
    Kleiner 1987, no. 287
    Treasury 4, no. 597
    Hong Kong Museum of Art, October–December 1978
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
    Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

    One of Ma's great early masterpieces, this was the first inside-painted snuff bottle that Hugh Moss acquired for his own collection after the debacle with the Ye Zhongsan bottle described under lot 29 (Treasury 4, no. 528). Inspired to collect for himself, he scoured the antique shops of London only to find the bottle he most wanted in the most expensive Chinese art shop in town at the time, that of John Sparks, Ltd, in Mount Street. The asking price was a hefty fourteen pounds sterling, wildly expensive at that time and beyond Moss's pocket, but Peter Vaughan, the then proprietor of Sparks, recognized the helpless lust of a collector and took pity on the lad, allowing him to pay in seven monthly instalments. The bottle was set on Moss's bedside table that very night, and stayed there for a week, the lights going on and off all through the night as he woke up to marvel at his new-found treasure in his excitement.

    This subject was first painted as early as 1894, but Ma did three versions in 1898, one of which is identical in shape and style to this one and we are probably safe in assuming that this was painted in the same year. It was in the Arthur W. Scharfeld Collection and the painting of Wang Xiang on that bottle is almost identical in composition and inscription, although it is a slightly simpler version and not so satisfyingly composed. The figure is closer to the base of the bottle, and there is less setting in the way of reeds surrounding him. It appears that Ma, having painted the Scharfeld version, improved upon the composition, moving the figure up a little, to set him more on a diagonal with the two fish, and adding a little more background detail, particularly behind the figure, in order to better integrate the painting and inscription. The vegetables on the other side of the Scharfeld version are very differently composed with only the radish and the cabbage with its katydid. Here the composition is made far more powerful by adding the third element, another indication that it is the later, evolved version of the subject. Of the three versions from 1898, the Scharfeld example is dated to the seventh month, at the beginning of autumn, while the other is dated to the winter of the year and is the more evolved version, similar to this, although in a more rectangular shaped bottle (Chinese Snuff Bottles no. 3, p. 67, bottom right). It seems likely that this one was done sometime shortly after the seventh month of 1898, given the similarly shaped bottle, although it may have been done a little later, since there is a version in glass of the same two compositions dated to 1904 (Geng Baochang and Zhao Binghua 1992, no. 338).

    Although this crystal bottle could have been an older one, we are inclined to believe that it was not, simply because Ma painted inside this shape on several occasions, as did other artists of the time, and yet there are very few old, plain bottles known of this series of exaggerated pear shapes, as flattened as this and tapering evenly to the neck, suggesting that they were made to be painted.

    The story of Wang Xiang (184–268) was incorporated into the twenty-four famous paragons of filial piety. Wang lived in the transitional period between the Eastern Han, the Three Kingdoms and the Jin dynasty. He eventually became a high official of the Jin. It is said that as a young man he was ill-treated by his step-mother. Notwithstanding, he always complied with her wishes. Once when she fancied eating fresh fish in winter, Wang Xiang took off his clothes and laid himself down on a frozen stream, hoping to melt a hole in the ice to catch fish. Moved by his filial piety, the god in heaven rewarded him by causing a pair of carp to leap out of the water.

    The poem on that side of the bottle reads:

    Step-mothers are [everywhere] in this world.
    [But] under heaven [one] will never find [another] Wang Xiang.
    Even now on the stream
    [There is still] a sheet of ice resembling [Wang's] recumbent body.

    On the other side is written:

    Magnificently clad [and emitting] splendid sounds,
    [The katydid] brings about a melancholy [mood].
    With this guest on [my] mind,
    [My] poetic thoughts are aroused [and I begin] to versify,
    The boundless emotions [in my heart].

    This inscription is unusual for Ma in that it is in draft script rather than his usual regular script, but see discussion under Treasury 4, no. 594.



    高:6.5 厘米
    口經/唇經:0.55/1.70 厘米
    蓋:珊瑚,雕蟠螭 ,與座為一體,描金青銅鈕

    John S. Sparks Ltd. (倫敦,約1962)
    莫士撝 (1980)
    Gerd Lester(1986)

    Chinese Snuff Bottles 2, 頁47, 圖12
    The Connoisseur, 1966年2 月 ,頁111
    Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, 編號234
    Lester 1981, 頁25,左下
    Kleiner 1987, 編號287
    Treasury 4, 編號597
    香港藝術館,1978年10 月至12月
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd, 倫敦, 1987年10 月
    Creditanstalt, 維也納, 1993年5月至6月

    本畫不但是馬少宣早期傑作之一,也是莫士撝收藏的第二件內畫煙壺。第一件是葉仲三的作品,本趟拍賣會拍賣品號29,Treasury 4, 編號528。那件給了莫士撝很大的刺激,他搜遍倫敦全城,最後偏偏在Mount街的當時中國藝術品店最昴貴的John Sparks 有限公司找到了最引人入勝的煙壺。要價是十四英鎊,當時是貴嵩嵩的價錢,莫士撝一定買不起,Sparks 當時的老板Peter Vaughnh認出青年收藏家貪戀入迷了,很同情他,就讓他以七個月分期付款。那天晚上,本壺就放在莫士撝床頭桌上,他整夜斷斷續續地開燈觀賞寶貝。

    這個題目馬少宣1894年就畫過,1898手也畫了三個樣式,其中之一的形式與作風跟本壺一模一樣,可推測本壺也是1898畫的。那件為Arthur W. Scharfield 所收藏,王祥的肖像和題詩布局與本壺大同小異,唯簡單一點,也不如本壺令人滿意。畫中人物離底較近,周圍的蘆葦稀疏。好像是馬少宣畫了Scharfield氏的那件就調整了布局,把人物上移,增加了襯托人物的景象,把人物和題詩更好地結合。Scharfield 氏的反面未畫水仙,本壺的布局氣勢較強。那件壺注有1898年7月的日期,同年另一件是冬季作的,是比較進展的樣式,也比較像本壺,唯壺形更近乎長方形(見Chinese Snuff Bottles 3, 頁67, 右下)。因為7 月作的煙壺與本壺形式相似而本壺內畫有所進展,我們認為本壺是7 月以後不久作的。不過,我們還得指明,正反兩面的圖像也出現在確定為1904 年作的一件玻璃煙壺(耿寶昌、趙炳驊1992, 編號338),我們不能絕對地否認本壺是晚點作的可能性。


    王祥東漢末~西晉人,以孝著稱,其"臥冰求鯉"的故事就是本坱壺一面的題材。馬少宣題詞一般用楷體,"楚楚衣裳絢爛聲,來上淒清,有客因縈,□興澄,吟無限衷情" 卻用行草雜體,是比較獨特的。我們尚未發掘這段文詞的來源,今且以韻斷句,好像是詞、曲、戲曲一類的韻文。
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