An inscribed chalcedony 'Sanyuan tu' snuff bottle Official School, 1740–1840
Lot 21
An inscribed chalcedony 'Sanyuan tu' snuff bottle Official School, 1740–1840
Sold for HK$ 216,000 (US$ 27,856) inc. premium
Lot Details
An inscribed chalcedony 'Sanyuan tu' snuff bottle
Official School, 1740–1840
5.9cm high.


  • Treasury 2, no. 317


    The Successful Candidate Cameo

    Chalcedony; very well hollowed with a concave lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim with rounded edges; carved with a cameo design of three monkeys in a rocky landscape, with the relief cameo title Sanyuan tu, ('A picture of the Three firsts')
    Official School, 1740–1840
    Height: 5.9 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.76/2.20 and 2.10 cm (oval)
    Stopper: tourmaline; glass finial

    Condition: miniscule, insignificant chip on footrim, which may be very slightly reduced to remove tiny chips, but it may be just the way it was made; flaw in original material appearing as a polished indentation across footrim; otherwise, workshop condition

    Christie's, South Kensington, London, 19 December 1986, lot 8

    Kleiner 1987, no. 173
    Treasury 2, no. 317

    Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987
    Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

    There is a small group of chalcedony bottles that seems to be part of the broader Official School but incorporates distinctly Zhiting-school Suzhou stylistic features. This and Sale 1, lot 20 (Treasury 2, no. 318), are among the finest of them, and another is illustrated in Stevens 1976, no. 582 (also illustrated in White 1990, Pl. 19, no. 3, from the Salting Bequest of 1910). In addition to the fact that it is usually only minor Suzhou detailing that is superimposed onto standard Official School bottles and subjects, the assumption that these are Official School bottles responding to Suzhou style rather than the other way round is strengthened by the Salting example, which shares both the two horses subject and the formal and technical characteristics of several other Official School examples bearing no traces of Suzhou style. In this superb example of the stylistic-crossover type, a standard Official School form, complete with the common plain reverse, typical neck, foot, and hollowing, is decorated on the front using a different plane of colour in standard Official School style. The three monkeys, although unusually well detailed, are not of Suzhou style because they are not completed in the round, despite plenty of thickness available from which to do so. The side view reveals that they are conceived primarily as well raised but nonetheless essentially two-dimensional images. No attempt has been made to detail the sometimes quite deep side planes of the relief that cannot be seen from the front of the bottle. The Suzhou school of Zhiting would certainly have carved them much more fully in the round (see, for instance, Moss 1971, nos. 187 and 188). There is still a distinct sense of converting the brown relief into monkeys as much through linear detail as sculptural form in this example, whereas the two Suzhou examples quoted are more three-dimensional. Other than that, the Zhiting Suzhou style is suggested by the relief, cameo inscription and the appearance of the rockwork. The latter is more complex than is usual for the Official School, albeit still simpler than one would expect of a mature Suzhou bottle of the same period.

    The inscription here is an auspicious title Sanyuan tu (literally 'A picture of the three yuan). Yuan here is a shortened form of jieyuan, huiyuan and zhuangyuan, distinguished titles awarded to the first-place holders of the three levels of civil examinations (see discussion under no. 302). The hidden auspicious meaning of the title, provided by a rebus on the name for gibbon, also pronounced yuan, is 'May you be at the top of all three levels of the civil service examination.' It is, again, a suitable gift for an aspiring official.

    For another version of this subject in a similar material, but without the identifying title, see Moss 1971a, p. 78, no. 70, and for a jade version from the Zhiting school at Suzhou, Sotheby's, London, 21 June 1995, lot 108, now in the Franz Collection.


    玉髓; 掏膛非常規整,凹唇,微凸斂底,突出圈足,足底接觸地面而呈方圓形;巧雕巖壁三猿圖,浮雕"三元圖"三字
    頒賜類, 1740~1840年
    高:5.9 厘米
    口經/唇經:0.76/2.20 及 2.10 厘米 (橢圓形)


    佳士得,南肯辛頓, 倫敦,1986年12月19日,拍賣品號 8

    Kleiner 1987, 編號173
    Treasury 2, 編號317

    Sydney L. Moss Ltd, 倫敦, 1987年10月
    Creditanstalt, 維也納, 1993年5月~6月

    有一批玉髓煙壺可算是屬於廣意的頒賜類而呈現蘇州芝亭風格的特點。本壺和第一場拍賣會, 拍賣品號 20 (Treasury 2, 編號318)都是其中最優良者的二件,還有Stevens 1976, 編號582 (亦見於 White 1990, 插圖 19, 編號3,為英國國家美術館,1910年 Salting 氏交付的遺贈物之一)。一般說,這些煙壺是頒賜類規範的壺形與圖飾上附加次要的蘇州風細節設計的。本壺是典型的頒賜品﹕背面無紋,頸部、底、掏膛都是標準的,正面利用不同顏色的一層資料雕刻圖案。三個猿狙刻得例外詳細,但是不是蘇州的雕風,因為缺乏立體感。從橫看,可以了解到,雖然暗色的資料夠厚,牠們仍然不過是高浮雕的二維圖象。蘇州的芝亭流派雕匠一定會利用那麼厚的資料來雕出側面的細節 (對照 Moss 1971, 編號 187、188)。不過,浮雕圖象、浮雕題詞、巖石狀態等都讓人聯想到蘇州的芝亭風格。巖石的樣子比一般的頒賜類煙壺復雜點,但還是比同時期成熟的蘇州煙壺簡單。

    類似資料三猿圖煙壺有Moss 1971a, 頁 78, 編號70;蘇州芝亭流派作的玉煙壺有蘇富比,倫敦, 1995年6月21日, 拍賣品號 108,如今為 Franz 氏所收藏。
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