A nephrite 'horse and monkey' snuff bottle Sculpture: 1600–1780 (converted to a snuff bottle: 1644–1940)
Lot 30
A nephrite 'horse and monkey' snuff bottle
Sculpture: 1600–1780 (converted to a snuff bottle: 1644–1940)
Sold for HK$ 144,000 (US$ 18,345) inc. premium

Lot Details
A nephrite 'horse and monkey' snuff bottle Sculpture: 1600–1780 (converted to a snuff bottle: 1644–1940) A nephrite 'horse and monkey' snuff bottle Sculpture: 1600–1780 (converted to a snuff bottle: 1644–1940) A nephrite 'horse and monkey' snuff bottle Sculpture: 1600–1780 (converted to a snuff bottle: 1644–1940) A nephrite 'horse and monkey' snuff bottle Sculpture: 1600–1780 (converted to a snuff bottle: 1644–1940) A nephrite 'horse and monkey' snuff bottle Sculpture: 1600–1780 (converted to a snuff bottle: 1644–1940) A nephrite 'horse and monkey' snuff bottle Sculpture: 1600–1780 (converted to a snuff bottle: 1644–1940)
A nephrite 'horse and monkey' snuff bottle
Sculpture: 1600–1780 (converted to a snuff bottle: 1644–1940)
4.75cm high.


  • Treasury 1, no. 49


    The Count Blucher Conversion

    Nephrite of pebble material; well hollowed and carved in the form of a recumbent bridled horse turning its head back to look at a gibbon perched on its back; the gibbon holds the horse's halter and has its hand on its own head while returning the horse's stare

    Sculpture: 1600–1780
    Conversion to a snuff bottle: 1644–1940
    Length: 6.68 cm
    Height: 4.75 cm
    Mouth: 0.70 cm
    Stopper: coral, carved with a formalized fruiting branch; pearl finial

    Condition: workshop condition except for the fact that it has been converted to a snuff bottle after it was made as a paperweight

    Michael Stern
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd.
    Kurt Graf Blucher von Wahlstatt (Count Blucher)
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd.
    Emily Byrne Curtis
    Sotheby's, New York, 1 July 1985, lot 213
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (Hong Kong, 1986)
    Sydney L. Moss, Ltd 1995, p. 9, no. 23
    Moss 1971a, p. 73, no. 31
    Kleiner 1987, no. 60
    Galleries Lafayette 1990, p. 6, fig. 1
    Treasury 1, no. 49
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, March–April, 1965
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
    Galeries Lafayette, Paris, April 1990
    Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

    This is probably the most famous of all conversions, with its impressive provenance and frequent illustration and exhibition. Conversions are bottles which started life as another form and were later hollowed to create a snuff bottle. Although the original carving may be datable, the date of conversion can rarely be established with any accuracy. There is very little style involved in hollowing a snuff bottle, and what little is evident here currently tells us too little about dating to be of much use. Had the hollowing been a virtuoso performance, which is practically never the case with conversions, we might be able to suggest a mid-Qing period for the hollowing. With simply adequate hollowing, however, all we can assume is that it was hollowed enough for use, which means it might have been an early conversion. If it were simply drilled, or otherwise non-functional as a
    snuff bottle, then we could assume a conversion date after the mid-nineteenth century, and probably into the late Qing or Republican period. At that time foreign collectors became a serious factor in the marketplace and often did not demand even functional hollowing, let alone good hollowing. More recent conversions would, again, have been done more painstakingly because today the market would demand that their conversions look as if they had been used or at least were usable. In this case, however, we know that the bottle existed in this form from the mid-twentieth century, since Michael Stern formed his collection in the 1950s and early 1960s, disposing of it through Sydney L. Moss Ltd., providing Hugh Moss with the opportunity for his first catalogue and exhibition of snuff bottles (Sydney L. Moss Ltd 1965). The conversion is likely, therefore, to be an early one and the bottle was probably used for snuff, in which case the most likely period of conversion is during the mid-Qing period, and perhaps before the latter part of the nineteenth century.

    The fact that the bottle is converted is hardly in question. The cutting of the opening is left with a quite different finish from the rest of the bottle and the slightly irregular, flattened area needed to allow for a stopper to sit flush with the surface is out of keeping with the original sculpture. It is also likely that had the maker of the horse intended a snuff bottle the stopper would have been better integrated into the form, with the horse's head forwards and the mouth of the horse doubling for that of the bottle (although a horse does not lend itself to such usage so readily as other animals with shorter necks). As a rule only the seated bears in white nephrite (see, for instance, Treasury 1, no. 42) and standing figural forms in ceramics and other materials tend to have stoppers set in the tops of their heads, and then the configuration is still sensible for a snuff-bottle since it is the top of the form. To set it in the chest of a horse is not a likely snuff bottle maker's style, although there are two known agate stag-form snuff bottles with their chests drilled for the mouth of a snuff bottle where the existence of two, both from the same carver, suggests that they were probably not conversions (see Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 163 and p. 757).

    An unquestioned conversion of a probably late-Ming buffalo carving which was sculpturally in a class with this one as a small animal carving was sold by Sotheby's, New York, 12 October 1993, lot 198, and had its hole drilled in a similar position to this one.

    Assuming that this particular bottle is a conversion, the original would have been a small sculpture for the educated aesthete, perhaps doubling as a paper-weight as so many of these small stone and bronze sculptures did for scholars and artists. Most aesthetes were scholars and artists, since without literacy, which included mastery to some extent of the calligrapher's brush and ink, they could hardly be members of the influential minority which governed and to a very large extent defined aesthetics. It has been suggested that it might be a converted pendant but it is too heavy for such use, and in any case there is no place for a suspension cord, essential for a pendant which, by definition, hangs from something. It was clearly conceived as an independent sculpture, made to stand on its flattened base and on the folded legs of the horse, in which position it is entirely comfortable visually. As such it is superbly carved, the interaction between
    the horse and monkey beautifully expressed, and the pose and detailing of very high quality judged by the demanding standards of either snuff bottle carving or miniature sculpture. The disposition, carving and finish of the horse's hooves are particularly impressive and fluent and sum up the mastery of the original carver.

    The only remaining problem is the dating of the original carving. The style and quality would allow for a date at any time from the late Ming to the latter part of the Qianlong period. One unusual feature which may offer a clue is the inclusion of skin markings in two areas without incorporating them into the design. On the classic eighteenth-century carving of a bear and cub, made as a snuff bottle during the Qianlong period, from the Cussons Collection, once in the J & J Collection (Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 2), a similar strip of colour has been cleverly used as the halter on the beast, whereas here it is completely ignored. This may suggest an earlier date than the Qianlong period. The use of natural colours in the material became so standard by the mid-eighteenth century that it is perhaps unlikely that any carver could have overlooked the possibilities of turning these two markings into a curved halter and making positive use of them. Since there is also an air of early Qing refinement to the carving, perhaps the most likely date is from say 1650–1730. However, there is also a fish-form snuff bottle attributable to the palace workshops and the Qianlong period which has similar veins unused as specific details (see Hall 1993, no. 25).



    長:6.68 厘米
    高:4.75 厘米
    口經:0.70 厘米

    Michael Stern
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd
    庫爾特.布呂歇爾.馮.華爾斯達脫(伯爵)Kurt Blücher von Walhstatt (Graf)
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd, 香港,1986年
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd 1965, 頁9,圖23
    Moss 1971a, 頁73,編號31
    Kleiner 1987, 編號60
    Galeries Lafayette 1990, 頁6,圖1
    Treasury 1, 編號 49
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd, 倫敦, 1965年3 月~4月
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd, 倫敦, 1987年10月
    Galeries Lafayette, 巴黎,1990年4 月
    Creditanstalt, 維也納, 1993年5月至6月

    本壺很可能是改造品最有名氣的。它既有驚人的來源亦有多次的展覽與文獻發表。一般來說,雕塑品甚麼時候改造成煙壺難以確定,儘管原物的雕塑期幸而能推定。掏膛基本上不提供格式變化的端緒。如果掏膛極其精湛,我們可以推測是清朝中期改造的,而掏膛僅僅合格,我們只能推定是為了造成有蓄積鼻煙功能的煙壺,因而是比較早的改造項目;要是沒有實用的功能,我們可以假定為十九世紀後半以後的改造,因為晚清到民國時期外國收藏家在煙壺市場上的影響比較大,但外國收藏家對煙壺的實際功能不屑一顧,何況掏膛的完不完整。最近的改造品會顯示比較精細的掏膛,因為現今的市場會要求改造的煙壺是存過鼻煙的,或者至少是可以蓄煙的。就本壺來說,我們知道它不是二十世紀中期以後掏的膛,因為Michael Stern的收藏系列是1950、1960年代形成的。該收藏系列是由Sydney L. Moss Ltd 變賣的,目錄 (Sydney L. Moss Ltd 1965) 和展覽都是莫士撝首次辦的。總歸之,本壺的改造不會太晚,大概是十九世紀後半以前的,而且本壺大概存過鼻煙。

    本壺是改造的玉器決不容疑。本壺開鑿的口沿與整件壺的光度有些不同。為了配合蓋子,在口沿位子留有稍微不規則的地方。獸形的鼻煙壺一般是以獸口作壺口,特別是脖子較短的動物。白玉的坐熊形壺和陶瓷人形壺常常具頭頂的壺口;頭頂也是壺身的頂端,這是很合理的。馬的胸前開個洞則不像是從玉璞開始的雕刻匠的原意。(不過,有兩件胸前鑿口的雄鹿形瑪瑙煙壺,因為是同一個雕工作的兩件,大概不是改造品。參見Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, 編號63與頁757。)小型雕塑風格與本壺可相比、好無疑問是改造品的有蘇富比紐約1993年10月12日拍賣品號的一件煙壺,原物的牛塑大概是晚明的,開壺口的位置與本壺基本上是一致的。

    本器體現晚明到乾隆後期的高度藝術水平,馬和猴之間的感應、二者的態勢、馬蹄的措置、雕刻、和精加工都極有精采。可到底是甚麼時期刻的呢?壺中兩處刻意保留的卵石斑紋皮提供了蛛絲馬跡,雕匠沒有把它們刻成設計中的一部分。可參照典型的十八世紀雕成的熊和幼熊煙壺,類似的斑一條紋雕呈了韁繩。(該壺本來為Cussons 珍藏所收,今為 J & J 珍藏所收,參見見Moss, Graham, and Tsang, 1993, 編號52。)本壺的雕工卻置之不理。這可能標示本器是乾隆期以前的作品。到了十八世紀中期,利用石料中的天然斑紋已經很普通,在那時候很難想象會有雕匠不把這兩條斑紋雕成韁繩或別的裝備。考慮到這件器物具有清代早期的雅致精神,我們推定是1650~1730年間作的。不過,我們不能不提到一件同樣地忽略石料紋理的魚形煙壺(Hall 1993, 編號25);它可推定為乾隆作坊的產品。

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