A white nephrite 'woven basket' snuff bottle Probably Imperial
Lot 56
A white nephrite 'woven basket' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1770–1850
Sold for HK$ 540,000 (US$ 69,665) inc. premium

Lot Details
A white nephrite 'woven basket' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1770–1850 A white nephrite 'woven basket' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1770–1850 A white nephrite 'woven basket' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1770–1850 A white nephrite 'woven basket' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1770–1850 A white nephrite 'woven basket' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1770–1850 A white nephrite 'woven basket' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1770–1850 A white nephrite 'woven basket' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1770–1850 A white nephrite 'woven basket' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1770–1850 A white nephrite 'woven basket' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1770–1850 A white nephrite 'woven basket' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1770–1850 A white nephrite 'woven basket' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1770–1850
A white nephrite 'woven basket' snuff bottle
Probably Imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1770–1850
5.49cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 1, no. 98

    白玉柳編紋鼻煙壺
    大概為御製品,推定為宮廷作坊作,北京,1770-1850

    The Palace Wide-Mouthed Basket

    Nephrite; extremely well hollowed and carved in the form of a woven basket with a flat foot
    Probably imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1770–1850
    Height: 5.49 cm
    Mouth/lip: 1.79 and 1.81/2.41 and 2.35 cm (both oval)
    Stopper: nephrite, carved with a basket-weave design; with integral nephrite collar; original

    Condition: Both bottle and original stopper are in good condition

    Provenance:
    Christie's, London, 14 June 1985, lot 110
    Paula J. Hallett
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (Hong Kong, 1986)

    Published:
    Kleiner 1987, no. 30
    Treasury 1, no. 98

    Exhibited:
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
    Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
    Christie's, London, 1999

    Commentary:
    There are two basic types of basket-weave bottles. In one, the entire bottle is carved as a woven basket, as here;, and in the other, the bottle is contained within a basket with the neck—and sometimes even the foot—appearing to emerge from a protective covering of wickerwork. Although most are in jade or amber, they also occur in other materials.

    Several features contribute to the extraordinary nature of this remarkable bottle. The size and shape are unusually generous for jade bottles of this kind, and the unquestionably original basket-weave stopper is unique for a jade example, although the type is known in other materials (see below). The meticulous carving of the woven design is unusually realistic, with a carefully delineated pattern that is constricted towards the foot and neck of the bottle, where the tightness of the weave in a real basket would increase. Finally, the bottle is superbly hollowed through what is probably one of the widest necks to be found on any snuff bottle. The artist has brought the inner walls perilously close to the deeper incisions of the outer carving in an extraordinary virtuoso act of hollowing. In addition, he has added one other exceptional feature that we have not seen on any other bottle of the subject. The carving of the lip detail continues into the interior of the upper neck, where it is set above a plain recessed cylinder, making the inner neck still wider than the measurements given, since the rope-work on the interior overlaps the cylinder. The border at the lip of the basket (and the bottle) has been described in the past as a rope border but is in fact simply a copy of the original basket-weaving technique, where the vertical strands are woven into each other horizontally to provide a strong edge and prevent fraying and unravelling.

    We have suggested an attribution to the court for this example for a number of reasons, reasons that may be unconvincing individually but seem to add up to sufficient circumstantial evidence. We know that the basket-weave design was popular at court and was probably associated in inspiration with the basket of flowers design (Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, p. 642, and see discussion under Treasury 1, no. 97). We can also be certain of the court use of this design, since it appears on the bottle belonging to the Daoguang emperor, Treasury 1, no. 149, and in moulded gourds, an art form that seems to have been virtually confined to the palace at Beijing during the eighteenth century, (see, for instance, Kleiner 1987, no. 202). The high quality and artistic imaginativeness of the bottle would be sensible for court production at its best, as would the application of such a high level of artistry to a piece of nephrite that has pale, icy-looking flaws in the stone. The single most convincing feature, however, is the original jade stopper. Every known jade bottle with an original matching stopper and integral jade cork that can be dated to the eighteenth or early nineteenth century is also reasonably attributed to the palace, or at least to other Imperial workshops.

    There is one final clue which suggests an imperial and court origin for this bottle. In the John Ault Collection there is a porcelain example covered in imperial yellow enamel or glaze, also with matching stopper. It is similar in size and form to this example and bears a credible four-character Daoguang reign mark (Kleiner 1990, no. 133). Whether or not the porcelain bottle was copied from a gourd or a jade bottle such as this is immaterial, since the practice of copying in porcelain bottles made at the palace is well established (see Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, pp. 397–398). Together all of these clues seem to lead to the court and the palace workshops.

    The association with the palace and the two Daoguang-marked bottles raises an interesting question about the dating of this example. Its more generous form is closer to the Daoguang-marked examples than to any known earlier bottles, and although the original form may have been earlier, the chances are it too may be from the Daoguang reign. If this is the case, then we have some tentative evidence of the wide mouth and virtuoso hollowing continuing well into the early nineteenth century, despite the apparently Qianlong alternative trend for narrow mouths (a view also supported by the known bottles belonging to the Manchu official, Nayancheng, for which see Treasury 1, nos. 146–148).

    There is also an ivory snuff bottle known that seems to either be part of the general group of these bulbous basket-weave bottles with matching stoppers, or inspired by it (see Stevens 1976, no. 768).

    宮廷風大口籃形鼻煙壺

    閃玉; 掏膛非常完整, 平底,雕籃形鼻煙壺
    大概為御製品,推定為宮廷作坊作, 北京, 1770~1850年
    高﹕ 5.49 厘米
    口經/唇經: 1.79 與 1.81/2.41 與 2.35 厘米 (兩件都是隨圓形的)
    蓋﹕ 閃玉,雕籃紋;原件

    來源:
    佳士得, 倫敦,1985年6月14日,拍賣品號 110
    Paula J. Hallett
    Hugh Moss (香港) Ltd (1986)

    文獻:
    Kleiner 1987, 編號 30
    Treasury 1, 編號98

    展覽:
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd, 倫敦,1987年10月
    Creditanstalt, 維也納, 1993年5月~6月
    佳士得,倫敦,1999年

    說明:
    我們推定本壺是宮廷作坊的產品,沒有直接證據,但旁證不少。我們已經知道,籃形煙壺在宮廷很受歡迎,大概是因為花藍的聯想 (Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, 頁 642, 也可參照 Treasury 1, 編號 97下的論述)。 而且,屬於道光皇帝的一件煙壺就是這個形式﹕ Treasury 1, 編號 149。最有說服力的旁證就是原件的玉蓋。所有已知可鑑定為十八世紀或十九世紀前葉作的帶原件玉塞蓋的玉煙壺都可以很合理地鑑定為宮廷作坊或者別的御用作坊的產品。

    再說,John Ault 珍藏所收藏瓷器胎柘黃色琺瑯或釉的一件鼻煙壺也帶一樣的蓋,並且它的大小和形式都很像本壺, 而它的道光年款是十分可信的 (Kleiner 1990, 編號 133)。

    如果本壺是道光年間製的,那麼,我們可以了解到,到了十九世紀寬口和精工的掏膛還是受歡迎的。屬於那彥成 (1763~1833)的已知鼻煙壺也是這個看法的旁證(參閱Treasury 1, 編號 146~148)。
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