White nephrite pebble
Lot 26
A white nephrite pebble-shaped snuff bottle 1700–1900
Sold for HK$ 156,000 (US$ 20,117) inc. premium
Lot Details
A white nephrite pebble-shaped snuff bottle
7.31cm high.


  • Treasury 1, no. 5


    Snow Pebble

    Nephrite of pebble material; irregularly hollowed

    Length: 7.31 cm
    Mouth: 0.54 cm
    Stopper: jadeite, carved as a twig with a leaf growing from it
    Condition: one tiny, insignificant irregular flaw with very slight brown colouring in it; workshop condition

    Jade House (Hong Kong, 1985)
    Kleiner 1995, no. 72
    Treasury 1, no. 5
    British Museum, June–October 1995
    Israel Museum, 1997

    It is tempting to refer to this bottle as flawless, that being the immediate impression it gives. It appears to be not only of unusually white colour but also without flaws, and because of this the simple, natural looking pebble shape is allowed to speak freely and powerfully without interruption. In fact, closer examination will reveal tiny flecks of more intense white, like snowflakes against white clouds and, near the mouth, the trace of a tiny fissure bearing a hint of brown colour, presumably from the original skin of the pebble now otherwise entirely removed. To even mention this may seem like nit-picking in so wonderful a bottle and there is no question that these flaws pale into insignificance in the face of the dominant visual qualities of purity, whiteness and sensuous form.

    This is properly described as a pebble bottle since the shape is inspired by the natural form of the stone. It is also probably of pebble material, since it is unlikely that a bottle of this form would have been carved from a block of mined material and the tiny remaining fissure carries a trace of some skin-colour in it. Even if it were from mined stone, however, it would still qualify as a pebble bottle, allowing for the understanding that there are two distinct types, those from pebbles regardless of their shape, and those of pebble form (also see discussion under Treasury 1, no. 62).

    This is a bottle to be held in the hand, having no foot to allow for a vertical interpretation without a separate stand. It is so abstract a form, however, that it actually works as well flat on a table as standing upright, and we have shown it upright simply because it is the easier way to reveal its qualities in a photograph, despite possibly giving
    a misleading impression of how it would naturally be viewed. One only has to handle it to understand what is lost by such a rigid, formal and distant display.

    White pebble-shaped snuff bottles are extremely rare, the whole point of a pebble-form bottle being to refer to, and use the qualities of, nephrite pebbles with their long-established meaning within the culture, defined to a large extent by the inclusion of at least some of
    the skin. Perhaps that was the original intention of the carver, but finding such a lovely white core material and perhaps a less appealing skin, he may have just kept removing it until it was all gone. It was probably, however, intended this way as a subtle reference to pebble material without the obvious use of skin.

    The hollowing is irregular, as in no. 57. Functionally it is well hollowed, but it does not follow the outer profile, leaving the thin area of one narrow side quite thick and the foot unusually deep. The deep foot may be an indication of a palace workshops source (see discussion under Treasury 1, no. 75) where such a pebble would have fitted comfortably into imperial taste under the Qianlong emperor and perhaps thereafter. It is interesting to note that this white material with still whiter flecks is typical of several Qianlong palace nephrite bottles (see, for instance, Treasury 1, nos. 40 and 62) and it is possible that the deep foot on formally symmetrical bottles translated in the palace into irregular hollowing, including a deep foot for irregular shapes, in which case both this and the moth (Treasury 1, no. 57) might be imperial bottles.

    The stopper here is an independent masterpiece. A mottled piece of jadeite has been imaginatively used to allow a rich and brilliant area of emerald-green to act as a leaf growing from a paler, greyish-white gnarled twig. It would grace any irregularly shaped bottle, and is a perfect foil for the simplicity and purity of this one.


    閃玉卵石; 掏膛不整齊

    口經:0.54 厘米

    Jade House 香港 (1985)
    Kleiner 1995, 編號72
    Treasury 1, 編號5
    大英博物館, 倫敦, 1995年6月~10 月
    Israel Museum, 耶路撒冷, 1997年




    白色的卵石煙壺寥寥無幾。用卵石料的本意一方面在於象徵守璞 的理念,一方面在於保存石皮至少一部分成為圖象的成分,用以表示刻匠靈巧。或許是雕刻本壺的人削了削,一不小心就把石皮全部削光了,或許是石皮本來質料不良,無可奈何就削除了。但是我們想,大概是雕師雖然不留石皮,還是想讓人聯想到正宗的卵石煙壺。

    本壺雖然容量足夠,掏膛厚薄不一致,一側面的壁比較厚,底也相當厚。底部厚或許反映著宮廷乾隆中後期作坊掏膛的習尚。推定為乾隆中後期作的煙壺中有些白玉中帶純白小片的, 如Treasury 1規定形的編號40與茄子形的編號62。可能是宮廷作坊對底部厚的偏嗜有時也帶來了掏膛不整齊的副效果。

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