Nephrite;  of pebble material;
Lot 9
A nephrite pebble-material snuff bottle 1740-1850
Sold for HK$ 168,000 (US$ 21,673) inc. premium
Lot Details
A nephrite pebble-material snuff bottle
1740-1850
7.25cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 1, no. 12

    閃玉卵石料鼻煙壺


    Cave of the Immortals

    Nephrite of pebble material; well hollowed with an irregular flat lip; carved as a continuous rock formation with a flowering orchid growing from one crag
    1740–1850
    Height: 7.25 cm
    Mouth: 0.39 cm
    Stopper: jadeite, carved as a stalk
    Condition: some natural flaws in the stone, including two near the mouth of the bottle, are not subsequent damage but part of the material; some abrasions from use, only faintly visible on one flat side where the bottle has been put down frequently on a flat surface. Otherwise, workshop condition

    Provenance:
    Sotheby's, New York, 1 July 1985, lot 218
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (Hong Kong, 1985)
    Published:
    Kleiner 1987, no. 53
    Galleries Lafayette 1990, p. 6, fig. 2
    Treasury 1, no. 12
    Exhibited:
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
    Galeries Lafayette, Paris, April 1990
    Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

    Commentary:
    This is a pebble bottle in both senses of the term (see discussion under Treasury 1, no. 62) and it is made from one of the most exciting pieces of pebble material in the snuff bottle world, with a skin-colour of vibrant and brilliant russet-brown colour. It is perhaps as red as it is possible to come with a pebble skin, and it speaks the artistic languages of colour and texture with an eloquence which is in a class of its own. The colour is entirely natural without any artificial staining and the form follows very closely the original shape of the pebble with only one shoulder where the skin has been removed to create a canvas for a discreet but symbolically meaningful orchid. This feature is so understated that it escaped detection when previously published.

    The carving of the rock formation is achieved in such a way that the bottle doubles as a scholar's rock sculpture as well as being a snuff bottle with a rocky landscape subject and the setting for the orchid. The simply defined planes and crags of the rock are the perfect combination of simplicity and totally abstract power which is typical of the finest of Chinese landscape paintings, where abstraction and realism go hand in hand in a sophisticated exercise that combines both realms of meaning, standard to Chinese painting since at least the fourteenth century and only recently becoming standard to Western art (see Hugh Moss, 'A Unified Theory of Art', in Moss and He 1990, 13–33).

    The significance of the microcosmic rock and its place at the pinnacle of the Chinese high art of sculpture is discussed under Treasury 1, no. 118. The combination of the natural form and colours of the pebble and the artistically contrived carving of the rocks could not have been more perfectly achieved.

    Apart from the symbolism of the orchid, representing the ethical qualities of the refined gentleman, there is another powerful symbol within the Chinese tradition which is subtly represented here. On the side with the more pronounced crags and gullies is a distinct cave, carved more deeply into the stone and of a lighter colour, within which can be seen further crags. The rock-cave in Chinese art represents the realm of the Immortals. Chinese myths include several stories where mortals have wandered into caves to emerge into a different realm of reality, that of the Immortals. Returning to their own world after what appears to them to be a short period of time, they find that generations have passed and they are far into the future. These stories are a metaphor for the timelessness of the mystic state of consciousness so highly valued by a culture where, by transcending the intellectual realm of reality and stepping into the trans-intellectual state, one steps off the stage of time. In Chinese culture it is this transformation in consciousness which represents immortality rather than the ability to live endlessly upon the stage of time.

    With its combination of relative qualities, represented by the material, artistic conception and mastery of carving, and its mystical qualities, represented by the cave metaphor, this extraordinary carving becomes not only a perfect balance between abstraction and realism but between the reality of the senses as interpreted by the intellect and that of the mystic realm to which the Chinese have always aspired as the ultimate level of reality.


    洞天卵石

    閃玉、卵石料;掏膛規整, 不規則平唇,雕磨呈繞壺的石壁,其中有洞穴,其上有一蘭花

    1740~1850
    高:7.25 厘米
    口經:0.39 厘米
    蓋:翡翠,雕綠蒂
    狀態敘述:有天然瑕庛,包括口沿兩個,不是損毀而是石料原有的;因為常常被平放,一平面可覺察微小的磨損;一般相對的狀況:作坊狀態

    來源:
    蘇富比,紐約1985年7 月1 日
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd (Hong Kong, 1985)
    文獻:
    Kleiner 1987, 編號 53
    Galeries Lafayette 1990, 頁 6, 圖 2
    Treasury 1, 編號 12
    展覽:
    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

    說明:
    本"pebble bottle"既是卵石料煙壺又是卵石形煙壺(且不說英文pebble bottle的慣用法往往含糊,包括所有無足而不豎立的鼻煙壺,卵石料煙壺就不一定都是卵石形煙壺),而且是鼻煙界最令人興奮的一塊卵石料之一,其棕紅色耀眼爭光,紅色更深的卵石料皮恐怕寥寥無幾。本壺很巧妙地表現著豐富的顏色感和肌理感,顏色是全天然的,形式是沿著原來的卵石外形而雕成的,只有肩部一側的皮給削除,正好開闢了安放一幽蘭的空地。這點太微妙了,Treasury 1 以前的文獻中沒有人注意到。

    本壺又是鼻煙壺又是文房的小山子,圖上虛實有致、稜面層疊分明、鉤勒一頓一挫一轉一折,單純而有變化。如此容合抽象和寫真兩個義意層是中國至少十四世紀以來的實訣,到近代才是西洋藝術的一種規模(參閱Moss and He 1990)。

    石壁洞穴中雕刻的或許是洞天的山崖,或許是仙草,待考。
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