An agate 'tethered horse' snuff bottle Official School, 1750–1840
Lot 145
An agate 'tethered horse' snuff bottle
Official School, 1750–1840
Sold for HK$ 144,000 (US$ 18,345) inc. premium

Lot Details
An agate 'tethered horse' snuff bottle Official School, 1750–1840 An agate 'tethered horse' snuff bottle Official School, 1750–1840 An agate 'tethered horse' snuff bottle Official School, 1750–1840 An agate 'tethered horse' snuff bottle Official School, 1750–1840 An agate 'tethered horse' snuff bottle Official School, 1750–1840
An agate 'tethered horse' snuff bottle
Official School, 1750–1840
5.98cm high.


  • Treasury 2, no. 302


    The Tethered Potential White Cameo

    Agate; very well hollowed, with a concave lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a flat footrim; carved with a cameo design of a horse haltered and tethered to a hitching post
    Official School, 1750–1840
    Height: 5.98 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.67/2.20 cm
    Stopper: coral; pearl finial; vinyl collar

    Condition: miniscule nibbles to inner lip, two tiny chips to outer footrim, neither obtrusive; tiny nibbles to horse's right ear; otherwise, workshop condition

    Sydney L. Moss Ltd
    Cyril Green
    J. Haines
    Hugh Moss
    Paula J. Hallett
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd (1986)

    Chinese Snuff Bottles No. 2, p. 24, Pl.V
    Moss 1971, p. 50, no. 126
    Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, no. 211
    Kleiner 1987, no. 172
    JICSBS, Autumn 1997, p. 14
    Treasury 2, no. 302

    Hugh M. Moss Ltd, London, 1974
    Hong Kong Museum of Art, October–December 1978
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987
    Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

    Horses are among the most popular subjects for parti-coloured hardstone bottles. Apart from their functional importance to the Manchus, an equestrian warrior clan, they provided a popular range of rebuses and symbolism. The popular subject of a horse tied to a post, whether fully caparisoned or simply haltered, suggests unrealized potential, and wishes speedy success for an as yet untested talent. This subject is one of the more popular ones from the Official School and is ideally suited as a gift to one who has qualified to become an official. The meaning of the subject seems confirmed by one example formerly in the Col. Kedzior Collection (Hugh Moss records) where two horses are tied to a post. In cameo relief regular script beneath the foot is the title Shiqijiaxi ('Now is the time to ride'). The implication is that the horse has been captured and trained, and the time has come to fulfill its potential. Another inscribed version of the same subject was offered by China Guardian, Beijing, 21 October 1996, lot 1936 and further confirms the meaning of the subject. It has a four-character inscription, Tiangu chengcai, which can be translated as 'Realize potential'.

    Our main reason for dubbing this entire school the Official School, regardless of the fact that it must certainly have produced bottles for other patrons as well, was the proliferation of subjects ideally suited to the official class. A significant proportion of the earlier output of this school is devoted to subjects wishing for promotion through the ranks of the bureaucracy, or otherwise relating directly to the court such as the galloping bannerman, or the Pekinese doves and dogs beloved of the Daoguang emperor and his consort. The majority of the subjects would have made such ideal gifts between officials and courtiers, and there must be a strong link between official life and this school, hence our name for them.

    The best of the parti-coloured chalcedony horse-bottles are among the masterpieces of the medium. This is an unusual one in white relief, although such material, when found, was often used for the subject of horses. The lively beast is shown in profile, the usual manner of depiction, and its wild spirit is indicated by the obvious movement of the beast as it raises one foreleg and stomps uneasily. It is also indicated very cleverly by the halter, which is wrapped three times around the post to indicate restlessness. It is a delightful and telling touch that allows us to read the personality of the animal, which represents the warrior's ideal of a horse tamed but not dispirited. The white relief is also cleverly set against a fascinating speckled and misty ground that forms an effective receding ground for the scene. There is a subtle halo left around the horse's head in a very thin layer of the white relief, which could so easily have been removed that it can only have been intentional.

    The formal integrity of the bottle, hollowing, and detailing are all impeccable, but here is another example of a superbly realized recessed convex foot where the whole foot, including the convexity, is recessed, suggesting that even if it heralded an easier option, high standards of achieving it still prevailed. It may represent the first stage along the road that led to the decline in standards and still be a Qianlong product. The style of bottle and subject would fit comfortably into the latter part of the eighteenth century, when such a first stage might be expected to occur. Cameo horses on bottles of this general form, nearly always very well finished and hollowed, can be dated to the second half of the Qianlong period by the subject of the galloping bannerman, datable to the post-1759 period (assuming they are celebratory of the suppression of the western Mongols in mid-century). What is not known is how long the style that was applied to the bannerman subject from 1759 onwards had already been in existence for other horse subjects, and how long thereafter it remained reasonably constant. For other versions of this subject, see Moss 1971a, nos. 65 and 66; Hall 1991, no. 42; Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, no. 210, which is also illustrated along with a range of others in Moss 1971, nos. 124–129, and Stevens 1976, no. 537. A fine jasper example is illustrated in Moss 1971, p. 19 fig. 36. A further clue to the imperial connection is offered by similar bottles in glass overlay attributable to the court (see, for instance, Kleiner 1987, no.116, for a double overlay in white and black, probably from the early nineteenth century, and Parke-Bernet Galleries Inc., 20 February 1970, lot 165, from the Claar Collection, with a red overlay horse on one side and Buddhist lions, another favourite imperial subject, in yellow and green overlay, on the other). In some cases, the horses are tethered, not to a post but to the mask-and-ring handles of the bottle, creating a clever visual play on the nature of reality (see, for instance, Sale 1, lot 43; Treasury 5, no. 894). Whether tied to a post or a mask handle, the symbolism would remain the same. There is also a small group of probably early nineteenth-century glass overlay bottles with dogs tethered to a post (see, for instance, Moss 1971a, no. 189). The symbolism is probably the same again, since the hunting dog was no different from the horse in that it had to be trained first before its full potential could be realized. If they are related, the imperial connection is strengthened yet again and the dating of the parti-coloured hardstone examples to the mid-Qing period confirmed. It is possible that the dog evolved from the horse subject and there may be a Daoguang-period reason for the switch, because few of the dog-tied-to-a-post glass bottles are likely to pre-date the Daoguang period.


    瑪瑙; 掏膛非常規整,凹唇,微凸斂底,圈足完全接觸地面,浮雕拴樁子、穿籠頭的一匹馬
    頒賜類, 1750~1840年
    高:5.98 厘米
    口經/唇經:0.67/2.20 厘米


    Sydney L. Moss Ltd
    Cyril Green
    J. Haines
    Paula J. Hallett
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd (1986)

    Chinese Snuff Bottles, 編號2, 頁 24, Pl.V
    Moss 1971, 頁 50, 編號126
    Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, 編號211
    Kleiner 1987, 編號172
    《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》(JICSBS),1997年秋期, 頁 14
    Treasury 2, 編號302

    Hugh M. Moss Ltd, 倫敦,1974
    香港藝術館,1978年10 月~12月
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd, 倫敦, 1987年10月
    Creditanstalt, 維也納, 1993年5月~6月

    關於拴馬題目,請參閱第一場拍賣會,拍賣品號12、43。(補注﹕前者提到的莫士撝知見錄記錄帶二匹馬系樁圖象的煙壺是 Kedzior上校珍藏的。)


    本壺各個方面完美無缺,值得注意的是,凸底全部是凹進去的,雖然這可能是比較簡易的形式的先聲,但雕琢水平還是很高的。也就是說,既然是代表水準下降的第一階段,也可能的乾隆時期的作品。本壺的風格和內容很合乎十八世紀後葉,而雕琢水準下降的第一階段在十八世紀出現是可以預測的。我們認為,因為馬匹的圖案可以跟騎士奔馳的圖案聯系,而後者又可以跟1759年7月11日, 清軍與大小和卓的最後一場戰鬥的歷史背景聯系,所以,這類形式的表面加工良好、掏膛完整的煙壺上所呈現的浮雕馬匹可以推定為乾隆後半葉的產品。但是我們還不知道騎士報捷圖的雕風在馬匹圖案上已經有了多長的歷史,也不知道乾隆中期以後那個雕風是延續多少年的。同題目的煙壺可參照 Moss 1971a, 編號 65 及 66; Hall 1991, 編號42; Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, 編號210(亦發表在 Moss 1971, 編號 124~129)、以及 Stevens 1976, 編號537。Moss 1971, 頁 19 圖 36 為精彩的碧玉例子。也有可推定為宮廷製的套料煙壺呈現類似的圖案,如Kleiner 1987, 編號116(大約是十九世紀初作的)與Claar 珍藏,帕克.波納 (Parke-Burnet) 1970年2 月2日,拍賣品號165 (另一正面是宮廷喜愛的獅子圖案)。有時,馬以牽馬繩繫於側面獸首環耳,如 第一場拍賣會, 拍賣品號 43;Treasury 5, 編號894),其象徵含意應該是一樣的。套料拴狗圖也有,大概是十九世紀早初葉製的,如Moss 1971a, 編號189。其象徵含意應該也是一樣的, 因為獵狗和駿馬一樣,也要好好地培訓,才能發揮潛力。拴狗套料鼻煙壺大概不會早於道光時期,這種題材在道光年間從拴馬圖分化出來,應該有某種歷史因素。

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  1. Daniel Lam
    Specialist - Whisky
    Hong Kong
    Hong Kong
    Work +852 3607 0004
    FaxFax: +852 2918 4320
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