Nephrite;  flawless and of flawless white colour;
Lot 56
A white nephrite Mughal-style snuff bottle Imperial, palace workshops, possibly the Xifanzuo (Tibetan workshop), Beijing, 1760–1799
Sold for HK$ 504,000 (US$ 65,030) inc. premium
Lot Details
A white nephrite Mughal-style snuff bottle
Imperial, palace workshops, possibly the Xifanzuo (Tibetan workshop), Beijing, 1760–1799
4.71cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 1, no. 113


    白玉蒙兀兒式鼻煙壺
    宮廷作坊,大約即西番作,1760~1799

    The Bob Stevens 'Enlightened Lotus' Jade

    Flawless nephrite; well hollowed, with a concave lip and flat foot; the octagonal, faceted form carved on each side with a formalized design of lotus in Mughal style

    Imperial, palace workshops, possibly the Xifanzuo (Tibetan workshop), Beijing, 1760–1799
    Height: 4.71 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.47/1.24 cm
    Stopper: jadeite; pearl finial
    Condition: one main side with small chips to the ends of the formalized floral design in two places (either side of 3.00 o'clock); the other main side with similar chips in the same two places, and one more on the left-hand leaf curling in to point at the central flower; none of it too obtrusive, but visible to the naked eye


    Provenance:
    Ko Collection (Beijing, 1923)
    Christie's, London, 8 November 1976, lot 106
    Bob C. Stevens
    Sotheby's, Honolulu, 7 November 1981, lot 115
    Alice B. McReynolds
    Sotheby's, Los Angeles, 31 October 1984, lot 158
    Published:
    Snuff Bottle Review, December 1976, p. 4
    Hong Kong 1977, no. 136
    JICSBS, June 1978, p. 45
    Chinese Snuff Bottles and Dishes 1978, no. 164
    JICSBS, December 1978, p. 43, fig. 164
    Snuff Bottle Review, December 1981, p. 15
    Art at Auction 1982, p. 359
    Arts of Asia, January–February 1982, p. 61
    JICSBS, Autumn 1984, p. ii
    Kleiner 1987, no. 26
    Kleiner 1995, no. 48
    Treasury 1, no. 113
    Exhibited:
    Hong Kong Museum of Art, October 1977
    Mikimoto Hall, Tokyo, October 1978
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
    Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
    British Museum, June–October 1995
    Israel Museum, 1997

    Commentary:
    This must be one of the most famous of all palace jade snuff bottles. Every time it has come up at auction in recent years it has commanded an extraordinary price for the day, and because of its frequent publication and impressive provenance, it is as well known as any imperial jade snuff bottle. If a poll were taken among collectors as to which of the palace workshops jade snuff bottles they know best and would most like to own, it would probably result in this bottle emerging head and shoulders above all others.

    The formal link with the palace workshops is now well established. The octagonal form, derived from European watches of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, with either a rounded panel or, as in this case, a faceted panel, is well known in palace glass and palace painted-enamels on both glass and metal, so the link with imperial production, despite the absence of a mark, was obvious and recognized at an early date. Superimposed upon this, however, is the crisp and confident design of formalized lotus which, stylistically, can only have been inspired by the Hindustan jade carving which became the great passion of the Qianlong emperor from the 1760s to the end of his reign. The significance of Hindustan jade carving is discussed under Treasury 1, no. 114, where a record of the establishment of a special workshop within the palace for the production of such wares emulating Mughal and Turkish jade-carving of the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries is noted. This workshop was designated as the 'Tibetan workshop' and was apparently separate from the long-established palace workshops for lapidary carving in general.
    It is possible that this bottle was made in the main workshops in response to the emperor's love of Hindustan jades, since the finish is consistent with the traditional polishing of nephrite, whereas the known wares from the Tibetan workshop tended to have a more glittery finish. The Tibetan workshop might also have been expected to emulate the unusual thinness of the Hindustan jades which excited the emperor, whereas this example is not super-hollowed. The stylistic reference to this group of jades, however, is irresistible and it is highly unlikely that the bottle could have been made prior to 1760.
    The softer polish and combination with a known palace form might also indicate that the bottle was among the earlier examples expressing this stylistic influence, allowing us, perhaps, to date it to the period shortly after 1760 and, therefore, granting the rare luxury
    of as precise a dating as is possible with any undated palace jade carving.

    If it is a product of the Tibetan workshop, the same logic would apply. It is more likely that a bottle of established form and finish would have been made earlier rather than later in the period in which Hindustan jade carving influenced court production. As techniques were perfected the workshop would have tended to respond more fully to the emperor's desires to closely emulate the thinness and polish of Hindustan wares, achieving fairly quickly not only a similarly thin-walled product, but eventually the extraordinary, virtuoso thinness of the classic Chinese wares which soon made the original Hindustan wares seem almost lumpy by comparison (see, for instance, Treasury 1, no. 115).

    It is worth noting that the hollowing of this bottle is excellent and does not leave the heavy foot area so typical of the palace workshops. The carving is also technically masterful, with a fluidity and grace that is often more difficult to express with formalized subjects and perfect separation between the relief and ground planes. The faceting of the surface of the two main sides is also subtly achieved and perfectly balanced with the design. The upper five facets of the octagon are reflected in panels which meet in a point, ideally set above the lotus and balanced by the downward curve of the point where the formalized leaves meet beneath the neck, while the lower three facets are blended into a single surface, to allow the main flower head a visually undisturbed frame in which to work its magic. This gives the impression of light radiating from the open lotus flower which is symbolically brilliant, considering that the lotus became a symbol of the Buddha and, therefore, of absolute enlightenment.

    For related bottles, see Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, no. 42, (of white nephrite, octagonal form and decorated with a formalized flower head); Hall 1990, no. 14; JICSBS, Spring 1992, front cover, and Sotheby's, New York, 27 June 1986, lot 51 (the last three all plain white nephrite, octagonal-faceted bottles).


    Stevens氏寶相花

    無瑕閃玉;掏膛非常規整, 凹唇、平足;有小平面的兩面雕蒙兀兒式寶相花

    宮廷作坊,或許即西蕃作,1760~1799
    高:4.71 厘米
    口經/唇經:0.47/1.24
    蓋:翡翠,珍珠頂飾
    狀態敘述:一面右邊兩處有小缺口,另一面右邊同處和左邊捲葉亦有,皆是肉眼看得見的,可並不引人注目

    來源:
    克立德珍藏 (北京,1923年)
    佳士得,倫敦,1976年11 月8日,拍賣品號106
    Bob C. Stevens
    蘇富比,檀香山,1981年11 月7 日,拍賣品號115
    Alice B. McReynolds
    蘇富比,洛杉磯,1984年10 月31日,拍賣品號158
    文獻:
    Snuff Bottle Review, 1976年12月, 頁4
    Hong Kong 1977, 編號136
    《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, 1978年6月,頁45
    Chinese Snuff Bottles and Dishes 1978, 編號164
    Snuff Bottle Review, 1981年12月, 頁15
    Art at Auction 1982, 頁359
    Arts of Asia, 1982年1月~2 月,頁61
    《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, 1984年秋期,頁ii
    Kleiner 1987, 編號26
    Kleiner 1995, 編號48
    Treasury 1, 編號113
    展覽﹕
    香港藝術館,1977年10 月
    Mikimoto 銀座大樓,東京,1978年10月
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd, 倫敦, 1987年10 月
    Creditanstalt, 維也納, 1993年5月至6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:
    這一定是最有名氣的宮廷玉鼻煙壺之一。最近幾年每次露面於拍場,成交價總是驚人的。本壺也經常發表,有令人肅然起敬的由來,要是請所有的鼻煙壺收藏家投標表明,在宮廷玉雕煙壺當中哪一件是他們較熟識的、最想收藏的,這件一定會無敵於天下的。

    壺腹作扁八角式,腹兩面復雕開光等等,都和同式的宮廷玻璃煙壺與金屬煙壺有明確的關聯。兩面雕的寶相花(亦稱蓮花紋)顯然也反映乾隆皇帝1760年代以後所熱愛的蒙兀兒圖案。不過,它很可能不是仿痕都斯坦玉器的所謂"西蕃作",因為所稱"西蕃作"的器物打磨光亮是比較閃爍的,而本壺呈現治玉傳統的琢磨光潤,沒那麼發亮。而且,痕都斯坦玉器一般是薄壁微透,按理說,西蕃作也應該也是器壁比較薄,而本壺內膛掏得不甚徹底。無論如何,本壺整個兒的風貌還是與蒙兀兒帝國藝術之影響分不開的,它作於1760以前的可能性比較小。不管是西蕃作還是舊的宮廷作坊作,也許是痕都斯坦風玉器早期的作品,如果能推定為1760年代初作的,那,在宮廷眾多玉器中應該算是例外明確的日期。

    應該指出的是,本壺掏膛是很完整的,本壺沒有宮廷作坊作品常見的厚底。雕法暢快而優雅,是形式化的圖案難以達到的風味,而且,地平面與浮雕交接處一點也不混淆。
    相關的煙壺有﹕Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, 編號42(白色閃玉,八角形,雕飾形式化花朵); Hall 1990, 編號14;《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, 1992年春期,封面;蘇富比,紐約,1986年6 月27日,拍賣品號51(此三者皆白閃玉,八小平面形煙壺)。
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