An inscribed coral 'horse and willow' snuff bottle Zifu
Lot 19Y
An inscribed coral 'horse and willow' snuff bottle Zifu, 1700–1820
Sold for HK$ 84,000 (US$ 10,838) inc. premium
Lot Details
An inscribed coral 'horse and willow' snuff bottle
Zifu, 1700–1820
5.25cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 3, no. 432

    珊瑚雕馬過垂柳圖鼻煙壺
    子甫,1700-1820

    The Zifu Coral

    Coral; reasonably well hollowed, with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding, flat footrim; carved on one side with a horse beneath a willow tree in landscape framed in an oval panel and on the other with a couplet in relief seal script 'The tower stands high on a green mountain. A horse saunters past the drooping willows', followed by two relief seals also in seal script, Zi and fu
    Zifu, 1700–1820
    Height: 5.25 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.46/1.45 cm
    Stopper: mother-of-pearl; coral collar

    Condition: shallow chip to the outer footrim (0.20 x 0.18 cm); two miniscule chips to the outer lip, one of which may have been trimmed back a bit at some time in the past; the surface well worn and smoothed through use; apart from the wear, excellent general relative condition for an early coral bottle

    Provenance:
    Sotheby's, New York, 26 November 1991, lot 166
    Eldred's, East Denis, MA., 27 August 1992, lot SB 257

    Published:
    Kleiner 1995, no. 310
    Treasury 3, no. 432

    Exhibited:
    British Museum, London, June–October 1995
    Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

    Commentary:
    This is a masterpiece among coral bottles. It is also one of only two known early inscribed coral bottles bearing any type of signature, albeit that this one is only an assumed art name and the other, on Treasury 3, no. 435, may be a reference to the stone itself.

    We may detect an affiliation with the first-phase Suzhou style in the use of a relief inscription in seal script followed by raised seals bearing an art name divided into two separate seals, one circular, the other square. This snuff bottle is also extremely well patinated, the decoration being evenly and softly worn by a great deal of handling over the years, but miraculously with no damage resulting from its obviously extended use. With both these clues to guide us, this may be one of our earlier coral snuff bottles and even more important than the size, quality, workmanship, and rare decoration and inscription suggest. The smaller size is certainly a feature of several early landmark snuff bottles, including the Yongzheng-marked turquoise bottle cited under Treasury 3, no. 421, and with the association with first-phase Suzhou style, it may even be from the first half of the eighteenth century.

    The name Zifu is associated with a number of individuals from the early eighteenth century through the early twentieth century, although when Treasury 3 was in preparation we searched in vain for an artist by that name. Sun Hengjian, probably of the Qianlong period, wrote a poem about Yangzhou, but unfortunately we know virtually nothing else about him; that leaves the Cantonese journalist Wong Shing (1827–1902) and several other figures who lived into the twentieth century, none of whom seems to be a likely candidate.

    Apart from its likely early date and the rarity of its inscription, this also stands as one of the finest of coral bottles in terms of material, art, and workmanship. The colour of the coral is unusually pale for a snuff bottle, although not as pale as the so-called 'angel-skin' coral of jewelry terminology, and beautifully marked with intriguing striations running throughout. It is also entirely without flaws or fissures. It is as well formed and finished as any known coral, with perfect formal integrity, as neat and well-controlled a foot as one could hope for, and crisp and confident carving, particularly noticeable in the relief inscription.

    The final touch is the well-matched stopper, but for this the original artist can take no credit, since the Blochs added it. If not coral or emerald-green jadeite, then pearl or mother-of-pearl, if well matched with a contrasting collar, suits coral very well and, being a related material, seems somehow appropriate in any case.

    子甫之珊瑚煙壺

    珊瑚,掏膛適宜,平唇,平面斂底,突出圈足,圈足底完全接觸地面;一正面刻柳樹與一匹馬,另一正面浮雕"樓高青山上,馬過垂柳邊"篆題,後加浮雕"子"與"甫"二篆印
    子甫,1700~1820年
    高:5.25 厘米
    口經/唇經:0.46/1.45 厘米
    蓋:珍珠母;珊瑚座

    狀態敘述:
    圈足外緣有不深的缺口 (0.20 x 0.18 厘米);唇外綠有兩 個微小的缺口,其中之一何能在過去有所剪修,表面用舊了而平滑;一般的相對狀態,對早期的珊瑚鼻煙壺來說,是非常好的

    來源:
    蘇富比,紐約,1991年11月26日,拍賣品號166
    Eldred's, East Denis, 馬薩諸塞州, 1992年8月27日,拍賣品號SB 257

    文獻:
    Kleiner 1995, 編號310
    Treasury 3, 編號432

    展覽:
    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:
    這是珊瑚鼻煙壺的傑作,而且很可能是最早的珊瑚煙壺之一。考慮它規模不大 ,並有陽字篆題和分配於圓、方形二印的二字別號,像早期的蘇州雕風一樣,我們認為它可能是十八世紀前半葉作的。

    子甫者,有或活於乾隆時期的孫衡鑒;他有《秋日登揚州舊城》一首詩,但我們無從知道他會不會是本壺的"子甫";還有黃勝 (香港人,1827~1902) 和其他活到二十世紀的人,但是他們一定是太晚的。
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