Rustic crystal master's sun in waves
Lot 4Y
An inscribed rock-crystal snuff bottle 1740–1880
Sold for HK$ 126,000 (US$ 16,242) inc. premium

Lot Details
Rustic crystal master's sun in waves Rustic crystal master's sun in waves Rustic crystal master's sun in waves Rustic crystal master's sun in waves Rustic crystal master's sun in waves Rustic crystal master's sun in waves
An inscribed rock-crystal snuff bottle
1740–1880
sold with accompanying watercolour by Peter Suart
7.36cm high (stopper with rhinoceros-horn collar).

Footnotes

  • Treasury 2, no. 256


    刻銘水晶鼻煙壺


    The Rainbow Crystal Moon

    Crystal; with a slightly concave lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding convex footrim; carved on one main and two narrow sides with the moon reflected in turbulent waves, the other main side incised with a clerical-script inscription within a rounded-rectangular panel
    The Rustic Crystal Master, 1740–1880
    Height: 7.36 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.72/2.21 cm
    Stopper: glass; rhinoceros-horn collar
    Condition: workshop condition
    Illustration: watercolour by Peter Suart

    Provenance:
    Christie's, London, 12 October 1987, lot 350
    Published:
    Treasury 2, no. 256

    Commentary
    This is a magnificent example from the core works of the mysterious Rustic Crystal Master. A large flawed area, which includes a broad patch of the iridescence created by light refraction off tiny pockets of air in fractures within the crystal, has inspired the artist to an unusually simple subject consisting of nothing more than the moon, dominating a large area of the one-sided subject, reflected in turbulent waves.

    The subject wraps around onto the narrow sides, but the reverse is incised only with a rounded-rectangular panel to accommodate a poetic inscription, in the same way that leftover space was inscribed in literati painting.

    The poem seems to be the source of inspiration for the 'painting' on the other side. The second line is the fourth line of a lyric by Hong Zikui (1176–1236); the first line might have been composed by the designer of the bottle to match it. This does not mean he moved as easily within literati circles as did Lu Dong, the Yangzhou lacquerer (see Tsang, Moss, and Ribeiro 1986, p. 102), for he did not have to be a serious poet to pull this off, just as the engraver did not have to be a major calligrapher to manage twelve clerical-style characters.

    The poem reads:

    [Cultivate] a bearing [akin to] the vast sea and sky;
    A spirit [similar to] the light breezes and a clear moon.

    The Rustic Crystal Master's works seem to follow quite closely the pattern of those of the Master of the Rocks, suggesting a commonality in the evolution of a workshop. The same can be seen with other identifiable if still anonymous craftsmen at Suzhou, Yangzhou and elsewhere. A broad range of wares is varied in both quality and artistic inspiration, presumably as commercial factors dictated either the amount of individual attention a single carver devoted to each work or the quantity of personal supervision afforded to workshop efforts. With both masters, there is a body of high quality works where the individual hand of the master can be clearly seen, regardless of the extent to which it was actually involved in production from start to finish. These are the most rewarding works and set the standard for our appreciation of the school as a whole. Among them the occasional masterpiece stands out above the rest, usually not because of any greater technical supremacy but as in all great art, because of inspired use of material and artistic interpretation.

    There is nothing about this bottle that sets it technically apart from others by the same hand. The formal integrity, carving style, finish and material are all equal to the usual standard set by the Rustic Crystal Master. What sets it apart is the inspired use of the material with its striking natural flaws and iridescence and the highly imaginative conception. The excitement of the iridescent effect in crystal is difficult to capture adequately on film. It is fleeting enough in the hand, as light flashes briefly and spectacularly off a fortuitous angle in the moving object. It can be seen, however, in the upper left-hand segment of the moon and is extremely unusual in having a considerable area of evenly striated iridescence of varying colours, giving a rainbow-like effect which is magically apt for a reflection of light caught in flying spray. The other, icier, flaws in the material also act as flying spray, best seen in the neck area where they are less confused in the illustration by surface relief and the reflection of light.

    There is one further possible level of interpretation which adds still further to the magic. In Chinese folklore the moon is thought to be inhabited, one such inhabitant being the hare who produces the elixir of immortality, grinding patiently away at the appropriate drugs with a pestle in a large mortar. Because of this the moon is sometimes conceived of as an alternative landscape setting to the earth with mountains and trees, rivers and lakes, even dwellings and individuals. With the brown discolouration of a third of the orb, the iridescent rainbow, and the mountain-peak-like shapes of flaws in the upper orb, such a landscape springs into focus. With or without this interpretation, however, the simplification of the two elements of the moon and the water in which it is reflected are masterly. Choosing to make no concession to the reality of an image reflected in choppy water, the artist has simply superimposed the moon on the water with a crisp circular outline unperturbed by the waves. Since the waves completely surround the moon it can only be read as a reflection but it is presented as the moon itself surrounded by waves. There is even a halo-effect to the whole thing as the pattern of waves emanates from the circle, spreading out from it, an effect one might get by dropping a sphere into choppy water rather than by reflecting it. All of this ambiguity adds to the magic and intrigue of the work of art.

    The stopper is an unusual type of glass that imitates tourmaline rather effectively. Indeed, it is difficult to distinguish it from the more precious stone until a close examination reveals the swirling internal patterns of coloured glass and trapped air bubbles.

    In common with so many of the works of this school, the bottle is well hollowed, following the outer contours very closely, but is not thinly hollowed.



    彩虹色的水晶月亮

    水晶;微凹唇、平面斂底、突出凸形圈足;一面雕滿月形開光,另一面的長方形開光刻著 "海闊天空氣象,光風霽月精神",之外隙地雕琢波濤洶湧之海浪

    拙朴水晶大師,1740~1880
    高:7.36 厘米
    口經/唇經:0.72/2.21 厘米
    蓋:玻璃,犀牛角蓋座
    狀態敘述:作坊狀態
    有彼德小話 (Peter Suart) 水彩畫

    來源:
    佳士得,倫敦,1987年10月12,拍賣品號350
    克立德珍藏 (1987)

    文獻:
    Treasury 2, 編號256

    說明:
    我們所謂拙朴水晶師其實不是指一個人,大概也不是一個作坊,而是一個作風,可能是一個地區的作風。福建是有名的水晶來源之一,不過,如今我們沒有根據確定"拙朴水晶師"的煙壺是甚麼地方的特產。"拙朴水晶師"作的煙壺一般施以淺浮雕,也利用水晶本身的天然纹理或不同颜色來加深雕刻圖紋的情趣。這個煙壺忽閃忽閃的彩虹色很特別,水晶令人興奮的彩虹色用照片攝取很難,就是在手裏玩賞還是曇花一現的。月亮上部給以輕細浪花閃耀的印象,頸部則是空中冰晶發的宵曇;壺全體正如盧綸詩句:"虛暈入池波自泛,滿輪當苑桂多香。"

    題辭《海闊天空氣象,光風霽月精神》下句是南宋詞人洪咨夔(1176~1236)《朝中措》(壽章君舉)上闋第四句。上句或許是煙壺設計人自己屬對的。這並不意味著設計人是像揚州作漆器的盧葵生那樣能以文人的身份很舒暢地與社會上層的讀書人交往;把這兩句湊合的人不一定是詩人,書寫這十二個隸體字的人也不是大書法家。

    且不說他的文人雅士資格的上下,"拙朴水晶師"確實是藝術家。在同一派當中有不同等級的物品,一定反映著師傅和各個工程或親或疏的參與,但最上級物品顯示高超的技藝。這表現於使用材料有靈感、詮釋題目有創見等。可引這壺為證:材料的品質、雕琢的式樣、表面的潤飾、布置的完整性等,都達到了"拙朴水晶師"一般的標準,而其特長在於水晶師如何利用水晶的斑點和彩虹色、如何將月亮照海水的概念表達出來了。月亮裏的不同顏色和彩虹色會不會使人聯想到神話中的寒宮等物很難說,但把圓形的開光放置在浪紋上面來代表月亮在海面上的映像極有精采。而浪紋有從開光伸延出的形勢,如同球體落水,好像月亮的映像具有一定的質量。這可算是有積極作用的含糊。

    蓋的玻璃頗奇特,它很有效地摸擬碧璽,只有仔細地窺察,才能分辨不同顏色的漩轉和玻璃中凝結的氣泡。

    跟此類煙壺很多例子一樣,本壺掏膛規整,隨壺身形狀成形,而不是薄膛。
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