An inscribed white nephrite pebble-material snuff bottle Suzhou, 1680–1770
Lot 39
An inscribed white nephrite pebble-material snuff bottle Suzhou, 1680–1770
Sold for HK$ 780,000 (US$ 100,643) inc. premium
Lot Details
An inscribed white nephrite pebble-material snuff bottle
Suzhou, 1680–1770
5.69cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 1, no. 117

    閃玉卵石料雕靈芝蘭草鼻煙壺
    蘇州,1680-1770

    The 'Room Full of Orchids' Suzhou Jade

    Nephrite of pebble material; extremely well hollowed, with a concave lip and recessed foot surrounded by a flat footrim; carved with an orchid, lingzhi, and another plant growing from a rocky ground beneath an inscription in relief draft script, 'Living with a gentle person is like being in a room full of angelica and eupatorium'
    Suzhou, 1680–1770
    Height: 5.69 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.72/1.75 cm
    Stopper: mother-of-pearl; coral collar
    Condition: some small, scratch-like indentations from the original manufacturing process of removing inner skin colouring to get to the white inner core; usual wear from use, not noticeable to the naked eye; otherwise, workshop condition

    Provenance:
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd (London, circa 1969)
    The Loch Awe Collection
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd (Hong Kong, 1986)

    Published:
    Kleiner 1987, no. 41
    Treasury 1, no. 117

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

    Commentary:
    There must have been a good many snuff bottles produced between the late seventeenth century, when they would have begun their rise to popularity, and the end of the Kangxi reign, when known imperial enamels on metal and glass were made at the palace, but where are they, and how can they be identified?

    A study of the entire field reveals that only occasionally do we have the luxury of imperially-marked or otherwise precisely dated or datable groups, so their absence from this early period is not, in itself, unusual. Indeed, prior to the latter part of the Kangxi reign, although ceramics produced at Jingdezhen may have been reign-marked during the first half of the reign, wares from the palace workshops tended not to be. All we can do at present, it seems, is to allow that certain types are stylistically possible for the late seventeenth century, even though they may, in fact, have been made later. Our most likely clues in identifying the rest of the missing early Qing bottles must surely be by comparison with other known wares outside the snuff-bottle field, and at Suzhou we are fortunate in this respect. It is likely that the output of this prolific centre for the production of jades from the Ming and Qing dynasties will provide us with as rich a source of clues as we can reasonably expect to find, revealing the qualities of non-imperial, early-Qing snuff bottles.

    The Suzhou jade-carving industry flourished from the late Ming dynasty onwards, and there are a number of pieces that can be dated to the seventeenth century, a task undertaken with particular devotion by James Watt (Watt 1980 and Seattle Art Museum, Watt, and Knight 1989). From this, a sense of early-Qing Suzhou style can be established.

    There is a standard group of wares associated with the seventeenth century whose style would have been dominant during the early-Qing period at Suzhou. They were predominately white nephrite, frequently featuring inscriptions and the signature of the late-Ming jade carver Lu Zigang; the classic multi-plane relief carvings of serrated rockwork and fully evolved landscape settings, making full use of the colours and flaws in the material, probably were in evidence as early as the Kangxi period. The main problem is that this style seems to have extended well into the eighteenth and possibly even the nineteenth century as an alternative to the more fully evolved, classic Suzhou style typical of the Qianlong period.

    With this example, we are faced with precisely this dilemma. Stylistically, it would fit comfortably into the output of the late seventeenth century; as a carving, independent of its form, a Kangxi date would certainly be acceptable. It is of the popular white material beloved of the early-Qing Suzhou jade carvers. (As a rule, late-Ming and early-Qing Suzhou carvers seem to have favoured flawless white material for smaller carvings, but the use of pebble skin was also a seventeenth-century feature that appears to have become more and more popular as the school evolved into the Qianlong period. Watt illustrates a pendant dated to the Kangxi period and signed by the carver Zhiting that relies heavily on skin colouring, although not with the clarity and obviousness of the later, classic Suzhou wares; Watt 1980, p. 216, no. 217). At this point, we can begin to fill our early-Qing gap only with candidates that might equally well have been made during the first half of the eighteenth century, but at least it is a start.

    Watt illustrates a plaque with somewhat similar qualities and style to the seventeenth-century plaques that he dates to the mid-Qing period, suggesting it could be as late as the early nineteenth century (Watt 1980, p. 217, no. 219). It may also be earlier, of course, but even the possibility of so late a date suggests that the style continued well into the Qing dynasty and that a possible early date does not necessarily imply a probable early date for carvings of this style. Again, at present we simply do not have enough criteria for more precise dating of such bottles, but at least the proposal of candidates for so early a period for our field is a start.

    The inscription is from Kongzi jiayu [School sayings of Confucius, a Han work], and is part of an argument that if one associates with people better than oneself, one will be gradually improved, just as one who enters a room filled with fragrant plants will gradually cease to notice the fragrance because (Confucius says) one has been transformed to be more like them. Lan in early texts refers not to orchids but to a certain fragrant grass that was dried and hung up to ward off baleful influences; two translations often used are thoroughwort and eupatorium.

    蘇州玉刻芝蘭之香

    閃玉卵石料;掏膛非常規整, 凹唇,斂底,平面圈足;雕蘭草、靈芝等,有"與善人居,如入芝蘭之室"陽文一銘。
    蘇州,1680~1770年
    高:5.69 厘米
    口經/唇經:0.72/1.75 厘米
    蓋:珍珠母;珊瑚座

    狀態敘述:
    因原來磨掉了內皮以揭露白色的核心,壺面呈現些微小的凹口,像擦痕;因曾有人享用,石面呈現一般性的磨耗;是肉眼幾乎看不見的;此外,出坊狀態

    來源:
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd (倫敦,約 1969)
    Loch Awe 珍藏
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd (香港,1986)

    文獻:
    Kleiner 1987, 編號41
    Treasury 1, 編號117

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

    說明:
    從十七世紀晚期到康熙末葉,即從鼻煙壺開始受歡迎到宮廷作金屬胎、玻璃胎畫琺瑯煙壺出現的時候,一定出產過很多鼻煙壺。問題是,它們到哪兒去了,如果看到了,怎麼能辨認?

    其實,帶御款的煙壺和可以確定年代的煙壺類並不多,怪不得這時期缺乏可辨認的鼻煙壺。康熙後期之前,景德鎮出產的瓷器往往會帶年款,但宮廷作坊作的瓷器官很少帶。現今,我們只好承認某些種類可能是十七世晚期作的,但也可能是晚一點作的。此外,識別失蹤的早清鼻煙壺最好的線索是煙壺和煙壺以外的器物的比較。幸虧,蘇州大量的明清玉器出產會提供很多線索,讓我們發現早清時期非御製的煙壺的特徵。蘇州的玉雕業從明代晚年起就興盛起來了, James Watt (Watt 1980 與 Seattle Art Museum, Watt, and Knight 1989)已經認定了一批十七世紀的玉器。 由此可以得到早清蘇州風格的理解。

    十七世紀典型的蘇州玉器是白玉器,經常帶題文和陸子剛的名款。到了康熙年間大概已經出現象了蘇州典型的鋸齒形邊緣坡石和成熟的山水圖;雕刻多層浮雕圖案的玉匠也利用了白玉中的雜色的瑕疵。問題是,這種雕風一直到十八世紀,甚至十九世紀還有,是更進化的乾隆時期典型的蘇州雕風的替代風格。

    遇到本壺,恰好就是遇到這個問題。看它的風格,十七世紀的來源是很合理的。光考慮它的雕風而不考慮它的形式,斷代為康熙年間也講得通。材料是早清蘇州玉匠喜愛的白玉。(一般來說,晚明與早清的蘇州玉匠雕琢規模小的器物時,就偏愛無瑕白玉, 但卵石皮的應用在十七世紀也有,在蘇州派進化向乾隆期的風格的過程中,卵石皮的應用越來越普遍。瓦特氏發表了一件斷代為康熙年間、帶雕匠芝亭名款的垂飾,該物在很大程度上依賴皮的顏色,儘管缺乏後來的典型蘇州玉器具有的清晰和顯著性。參見Watt 1980, 頁 216, 編號217)。要填補早清的空白,我們現今只有一些也可能是十八世紀前半期雕的閃玉煙壺,但千里之行,始於足下。

    瓶特氏發表的一片推測可能為十九世紀早期的玉匾跟他定為十七世紀的玉匾在品質上和風格上有些相似 (Watt 1980, 頁 217, 編號219)。這意味著一種早清風格會延伸到清朝中葉, 也意味著儘管這種煙壺可能是清朝初期作的,我們不能輕率地推定,這種煙壺大概是清朝初期作的。如今,我們簡直沒有足夠的標準指標來給卵石皮浮雕師流派的煙壺更準確地斷代。不過,試探地挑選一些可能是早期的閃玉煙壺也有一定的啟發價值。

    題句擇自《孔子家語‧六本第十五》﹕
    孔子曰:「吾死之後,則商也日益,賜也日損。」曾子曰:「何謂也?」子曰:「商也好與賢己者處,賜也好說不若己者。不知其 子,視其父;不知其人,視其友;不知其君,視其所使;不知其地,視其草木。故曰:與善人居,如入芝蘭之室,久而不聞其香,即與之化矣。與不善人居,如入鮑 魚之肆,久而不聞其臭,亦與之化矣。丹之所藏者赤,漆之所藏者黑,是以君子必慎其所與處者焉。」

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