Two Portraits in a box:    Inside painted by Ma Shaoxuan;
Lot 42
Two inside-painted rock-crystal snuff bottles Ma Shaoxuan, 1916-1923 (the bottles 1780-1923 and 1740-1850)
Sold for HK$ 1,200,000 (US$ 154,772) inc. premium
Lot Details
Two inside-painted rock-crystal snuff bottles
Ma Shaoxuan, 1916-1923 (the bottles 1780-1923 and 1740-1850)
depicting Jiang Chaozhong in military and civilian clothing.
6.4cm and 6.92cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 4, nos. 610 and 611


    水晶內畫江朝宗肖像鼻煙壺两件
    壺,1780~1923,1740~1850
    內畫,馬少宣,1916~1923


    Jiang Chaozong in Military Uniform

    Flawless crystal, ink, and watercolours; with a flat lip and recessed, slightly concave foot surrounded by a protruding convex footrim; painted on one main side with a portrait of Jiang Chaozong in full military costume under a fur greatcoat, his sword held between his hands in front of him, the other main side inscribed in regular script with a eulogium describing the sitter, preceded by the title 'On the Beneficial Administration of Yucheng, the Honourable Commander-in-Chief of the Army', and followed by 'Delivered with a bow by your comrade and friend Cheng Quanren', with one seal of the donor, ren, in negative seal script

    Bottle: 1780–1923
    Painting: Ma Shaoxuan, Studio for Listening to the Qin, Ox Street district, Beijing, 1916–1923
    Height: 6.92 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.71/1.42 cm
    Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar
    Condition: Bottle: the material with some layers of flaws in the material resembling planes of tiny bubbles, not obtrusive; one very small and one miniscule chip on the inner lip. Painting: studio condition
    No. 611

    Jiang Chaozong in Civilian Clothing

    Flawless crystal, ink, and vermilion watercolour; with a slightly concave lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; painted on one main side with a portrait of Jiang Chaozong in a fur coat and hat, the other main side inscribed in regular script with a eulogium describing the sitter, preceded by the title 'On the Beneficial Administration of Yucheng, the Honourable Brigade-General', and followed by 'Felicitations offered by your friend Cheng Quanren', with one seal of the donor, ren
    Bottle: 1740–1850
    Painting: Ma Shaoxuan, Studio for Listening to the Qin, Ox Street district, Beijing, 1916–1923
    Height: 6.4 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.66/1.9 and 1.85 cm (oval)
    Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar
    Condition: Bottle: tiny chips ground out of inner lip; outer lip with miniscule nibbles, barely visible to the naked eye; small chip to inside of footrim; none of it obtrusive. Painting: studio condition

    Associated paraphernalia: Fitted case inscribed by Jiang Chaozong to contain this and its companion piece, Treasury 4, no. 610

    Provenance:
    Jiang Chaozong
    Dr. N. C. Shen
    Emily Byrne Curtis
    Robert Hall (1987)
    Published:
    Curtis 1982, no. 24
    JICSBS, Autumn 1985, pp. 131–132, figs. 3 and 4
    Hall 1987, no. 75
    Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 344
    Arts of Asia, September–October 1996, p. 80, fig. 2 and p. 87
    Kleiner 1995, no. 420
    Ma Zengshan 1997, p. 68, fig. 64
    Treasury 4, nos. 610 and 611
    Exhibited:
    Robert Hall, London, October 1987
    Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
    National Museum, Singapore, November 1994–February 1995
    British Museum, London, June–November 1995
    Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

    Commentary:
    This rare pair of portraits shows Jiang Chaozong in both military and civilian outfits. They were acquired early in the century by Dr. N. C. Shen. On the fitted case, apparently made for them by Jiang, is the inscription 'Yucheng's treasure,' Yucheng being his Jiang's alias.
    What little information we have about Jiang comes, yet again, from the research of Emily Byrne Curtis (Curtis 1985). The sitter was identified by Dr. N. C. Shen, who was a professor of psychology at Yanjing University in Beijing during the first half of the century and an associate of Dr. Louis E. Wolferz, who also collected inside-painted snuff bottles. Dr. Shen left a statement in his notes that these portraits were of Jiang and that the label on the fitted case to contain the two was by Jiang himself, inscribed 'Yucheng's treasure.' The name Yucheng also appears on this bottle, and since the term 'Yucheng's treasure' would only be used if he himself owned them, we can be certain that, in this case at least, the bottles were made for Jiang Chaozong as opposed to having been made for a friend or admirer.

    General Jiang's career spanned three decades and he reached the age of 73 years in 1931. We also know what he looked like at the age of 78, from a photograph published by Curtis (ibid., p. 132, fig. 4) and can guess at his age in these portraits as being in his late fifties or early sixties, placing their likely date of manufacture between about 1916 and 1923. This is the only case known where a pair of portraits was commissioned to show an individual in two of his roles in life. In one Jiang is shown as a military man, wearing the Western-style uniform common to Republican soldiers and in the other he is seen in traditional Chinese winter civilian garb.

    The eulogy on the military portrait reads:

    Much respected and full of virtue,
    Your achievements are vast.
    [With you] stationed at the capital,
    Peace and happiness reign in the vicinity.
    The merchants sing praises;
    The populace feels thankful.
    [You are] as able as Han [Qi] and Fan [Zhongyan].
    [Your] tactics are comparable to those of Zhuge [Liang].
    [Because you] promote friendship with the allies,
    All neighbouring countries join in wishing [you] well.

    Considering the ongoing political chaos of the Republican years, rife with political intrigue and power-plays and war-lords ruling various areas of China like little emperors, the eulogy seems to beg the question of precisely where Jiang was a military commander. Such realities, of course, made no difference to a eulogy in China, where, if one had nothing nice to say one truly did say nothing. We would not expect such a eulogy to reflect the truth, any more than we would expect a filial Chinese author to write anything other than a hagiography. Both are eulogies of a sort and both focus on the best possible aspects of their subject.

    Han Qi (1008–1075) and Fan Zhongyan (989–1052) were both writers and politicians of the Northern Song period (960–1127). In the third year of the Baoyuan period (1040) they jointly directed an army to resist the invasion of Xixia, a barbarian state (1038–1227) at Yanzhou in Shaanxi province. Zhuge Liang (181–234) was a politician and an eminent strategist who served the state of Shu in Sichuan province during the Three Kingdoms period (220–265).

    The inscription on the civilian portrait reads:

    [As] the sun warms the flags and banners,
    [You, who are in charge of the] armed forces in the capital,
    [Are] a great leader in a prosperous age.
    [Like] an unmovable rock in a turbulent stream,
    [Your] reputation overawes the important areas.
    Thieves and robbers have all been wiped out.
    [You] plan [your] strategies as though [with the help of] the gods.
    With ease [you] devise schemes and solutions.
    Fully in support of the Republic,
    [You] work for the welfare of the people.

    The civilian portrait is painted in a convincingly old crystal bottle. Without the painting it would not for a moment be questioned as a mid-Qing standard, rounded-rectangular form, whereas the military portrait appears in a bottle which is not so convincingly old. We believe that a great many of these crystal bottles were made at the time of painting. On the bottle with the military portrait the hollowing is uneven, becoming almost paper thin at the narrow sides while being thicker near the base and the shoulders in a manner which would be unlikely for so elegantly made and extensively hollowed a bottle from the early Qing period. The civilian portrait crystal is more convincing, with its superbly even, extensive hollowing, slightly concave lip and beautifully recessed flat foot surrounded by a broad flat footrim.

    To whatever extent Ma Shaoxuan had family members working under his name, and to whatever extent he was inclined to turn out repetitive decorative images for the marketplace, there is no doubt that at his best he was one of the great masters of the medium. He remains an enigma: an artist capable of putting his name to banal pot-boilers who, at the same time, obviously cared deeply about his art and laboured
    to refine his skills and maintain his reputation throughout his life. But equally, there is no question that with his best works, he ranks alongside the finest artists in the medium and his portraits are always of supreme quality and artistry. One only has to see the vast majority of tasteless, chocolate-box portraits painted by most of today's artists to appreciate the depth and sincerity of Ma Shaoxuan's portraiture.


    江朝宗制服肖像

    無瑕水晶、墨、水色;平面唇、略凹斂底、突出凸形圈足;一面內畫穿上軍服長大衣的江朝宗,一把劍豎在他身前兩手間,另一面內書正體字"雨丞提憲大先生德政"讚文,後題"同志友程全仁鞠躬致詞",其後落白文"仁"一字印

    壺:1780~1923
    內畫:馬少宣,北京牛街,1916~1923
    高:6.92 厘米
    口經/唇經:0.71/1.42 厘米
    蓋:碧璽,乙烯基座
    狀態敘述:壺:水晶中似乎有一層一層的微小氣泡,唇內有一個微小和一個微不足道的缺口;內畫:出齋狀態

    編號611

    江朝宗便服肖像

    無瑕水晶、墨、朱砂水色;略凹唇、平斂底、突出平底圈足;一面內畫穿上裘皮大衣戴皮帽的江朝宗,另一面內書正體字"雨丞總鎮大人德政"讚文,後題"同志友程全仁致詞拜賀",其後繪白文"仁"一字印

    壺:1740~1850
    內畫:馬少宣,北京牛街,1916~1923
    高:6.4 厘米
    口經/唇經:0.60/1.90、1.85 厘米 (橢圓形)
    蓋:碧璽,乙烯基座
    狀態敘述:壺:唇內有微小的磨損,唇沿有微小的缺口,肉眼幾乎看不見,足圈內有小缺口,都不引人注目;內畫:出齋狀態

    有關事物:兩件煙壺同儲於特製盒內,有江朝宗題字

    來源:
    江朝宗
    沈乃璋教授
    艾米莉.比爾內.柯梯斯
    羅伯特.霍爾(1987)
    文獻:
    Curtis 1982, 編號24
    《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, 1985年秋期,頁131~132 ,圖3、4
    Hall 1987, 編號75
    Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, 編號344
    Arts of Asia 1996年9月~10月,頁80圖2,頁87
    Kleiner 1995, 編號420
    Ma Zengshan 1997, 頁68,圖64
    Treasury 4, 編號610、611

    展覽:
    Robert Hall, 倫敦,1987年10月
    香港藝術館,1994年3至6月
    National Museum of Singapore, 1994年11月至1995年2 月
    大英博物館, 倫敦, 1995年6月~10 月
    Israel Museum, 耶路撒冷, 1997年7月~11月

    說明:
    這雙煙壺曾是燕京大學心理學家沈乃璋(1911~1966)所收藏,沈教授認定被畫人是北洋軍閥重要人物江朝宗(1861~1943),盒子也是江朝宗題的字(參見Curtis 1985, 頁131~133)。江原名雨丞,讚文稱"雨丞提憲大先生"、"雨丞總鎮大人",是也。關於程全仁,至少有兩個可能性。其一為光明玻璃料器工廠執事的程全仁,其名見於1919年京師總商會眾號一覽表(孫健1990,頁622)。其二為琉璃廠古玩鋪賞奇齋1910年~約1921年的掌櫃,這位程全仁字啟元,冀縣人。(參見孫殿起1982,頁254; 胡金兆2006,筆彩齋和賞奇齋 清朝王爺是東家(2)。)兩篇讚文好像是用十三轍或類似的系統押韻,撰文的程全仁,工廠執事也好,古玩鋪掌櫃也好,可推測是北方說唱藝術愛好者。1900年以後江朝宗一直駐京,這雙煙壺大概是他1921年失軍權前送給他的。

    江便服肖像的那件水晶煙壺本身是典型的清朝中期形式,內畫制服的那件很可能是清末民國初作的,掏膛不整齊,側壁薄,底部和肩部壁厚。看技術水平極高的便服肖像煙壺,可見它才是舊壺新畫。

    馬少宣還算是難以理解的人物。他既能降心順俗,作重複的圖像以迎合市場,亦能專心致志,費盡心機以提高他的藝術水平。他毫無疑問是第一流的藝術家。
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