Zhou Leyuan, dated 1885 (the bottle 1770-1880) 5.4cm high.
Treasury 4, no. 470
髮晶內畫魚藻圖鼻煙壺 壺： 1770-1880 內畫： 周樂元，北京，1885年
Pale brown crystal with inclusions of tourmaline, with ink and watercolours; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding rounded footrim; painted with a continuous scene of fish swimming amidst aquatic plants, including catfish, carp, and mandarin fish, inscribed in draft script 'Painted by Zhou Leyuan in a winter month of the year yiyou', followed by one indecipherable seal of the artist Bottle: 17701880 Painting: Zhou Leyuan, Studio of Lotus-root Fragrance, Xuannan, Beijing, winter, 1885 Height: 5.4 cm Mouth/lip: 0.60/1.82 cm Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar
Condition: original material suffused with icy flaws; bottle with chip to inner lip; outer footrim bevelled a little to remove chip, not obtrusive; the painting in studio condition
Provenance: Unrecorded source (prior to 1972) Hugh Moss (1987)
Published: JICSBS, Spring 1986, back cover Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 312 and dust-jacket cover Treasury 4, no. 470
Exhibited: Hong Kong Museum of Art, MarchJune 1994 National Museum, Singapore, November 1994February 1995
Commentary: It is surprising that it took nearly a century before inside-painted artists began responding to the full potential of their medium by using materials other than glass and crystal. Perhaps the early artists felt it quite unnecessary to gild the lily of their exciting new invention with unnecessary frills. Their audience would have been sufficiently impressed by the accomplishment of putting literati paintings and poetry into their beloved snuff bottles without the need for any further encouragement. Whatever the reason, it was not until Zhou Leyuan first saw the potential in these other materials, with this bottle, in the winter of 1885, that the potential for integrating natural markings in material with certain subjects was fully realized. The result is quite spectacular.