A bowenite snuff bottle 1740–1850
Lot 6
A bowenite snuff bottle 1740–1850
Sold for HK$ 96,000 (US$ 12,386) inc. premium
Lot Details
A bowenite snuff bottle
1740–1850
6.82cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 3, no. 385

    包文石光素鼻煙壺

    The Belfort Leather Bowenite

    Bowenite, possibly of pebble material, probably with artificial colour; well hollowed, with a concave lip and recessed, flat oval foot surrounded by a protruding, rounded footrim
    1740–1850
    Height: 6.82 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.62/2.34 cm
    Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar

    Condition: some natural wear from handling, with some slight scratching visible to the naked eye; none of it obtrusive; otherwise, workshop condition

    Provenance:
    Raymond Li (Hong Kong, 1978)
    Belfort Collection (1986)

    Published:
    Hong Kong 1977, no. 140
    Jutheau 1980, p. 115, fig. 1
    Treasury 3, no. 385

    Exhibited:
    Hong Kong Museum of Art, October–November, 1977
    L'Arcade Chaumet, Paris, June 1982
    Christie's, London, 1999

    Commentary:
    The large serpentine family of stones can be broadly divided into two. One is a relatively hard, massive variety known as bowenite, and the other, sometimes known as serpentine marble, occurs as a softer rock mass mixed with other minerals. Serpentine is a soft material, about 2 on the Mohs scale, except in bowenite which can be as hard as 4 or even more. The presence of other minerals can affect this hardness, so that under certain circumstances a particularly hard piece of bowenite may be close to the softer end of the nephrite range of hardness. Certain varieties of serpentine can closely resemble nephrite, and with euphemistic names such as 'new jade' or 'pseudo-jade', serpentine has been used as a substitute for jade for some time. As a rule, however, a good steel blade will reveal the difference, marking the serpentine range without too much difficulty, but not nephrite. The visual similarity of certain varieties of serpentine, and particularly of bowenite, to nephrite is well illustrated, however, in this particular bottle which, on its two previous published outings was catalogued as jade.

    Serpentine is one of the rarer stones for Chinese snuff bottles but this impression may be partly due to the same syndrome that makes soapstone snuff bottles rare; when a material is fragile and soft, bottles made from it probably have an unusually high mortality rate. Stevens 1976 notes, quite correctly, that early serpentine bottles are rare, but gives the impression that it was quite a common material for late nineteenth- and twentieth-century snuff bottles. This may be misleading; neither early nor late serpentine bottles are common, and there are probably as many fine early serpentine bottles known as late ones.

    One of the varieties of serpentine that is found in early snuff bottles is of a yellowish-green colour, translucent but rather soapy looking, a lovely material that would have been highly valued by the Chinese aesthete, trained as he was on a similar range of stones from Fujian province and elsewhere that form the soapstone group. Two of the most spectacular of these yellow serpentine snuff bottles are illustrated in Perry 1960, no. 93, and Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 76. In the same work, nos. 77 and 78 are two further examples resembling black jade.

    The piece of material here is unique for the snuff bottle world and appears to have been achieved partially through the use of artificial colouring. It may have been of pebble material to start with, i.e., with a naturally weathered surface that has subsequently been enhanced by staining. The skin resembles an orange peel, or leather. Variations in colour, texture, and hardness are not unusual in the serpentine range because of its possible mixture with other minerals, and here an intriguing surface phenomenon has been used to great effect. Well smoothed all over and, together with its probable staining, it has the appearance of a spectacular piece of ancient pebble nephrite. That the surface cannot be entirely natural is suggested by the fact that what appears to be the weathered surface patination around the neck is no different from the patination around the main body. It would be impossible to find a pebble that was precisely snuff-bottle shaped, particularly with so symmetrical a form as this. Whatever process was used to achieve this lovely result, it is extraordinarily effective, and its resemblance to an ancient pebble of jade is so convincing that it has gone through the past twenty years classified as such. There can be no doubt that the more attractive varieties of serpentine were valued in their own right by the Chinese lapidary and his snuff-taking patrons. Most of the early examples are extremely well made and of commanding aesthetic merit, which is always a good sign that a material was valued.

    This bottle is of perfect formal integrity, with excellent detailing, a neat flat foot and a well-formed footrim, and its ample proportions are convincingly formed. The slight waisting of the neck is an elegant touch that brings lightness to an otherwise fairly standard and rather chubby form, although with or without the waisted neck, a supremely satisfying one.

    貝爾福特氏的皮革包紋石

    包紋石,或許為卵石料,大概含有合成染料;掏膛完整,凹唇,平面斂底,突出凸形圈足
    1740~1850年
    高﹕ 6.82 厘米
    口經/唇經: 0.62/2.34 厘米
    蓋﹕ 碧璽; 乙烯基座

    狀態敘述﹕
    經過歲月的磨擦以後,有肉眼看得見而微不足道的擦痕,此外,出坊狀態

    來源:
    Raymond Li (香港,1978)
    Belfort 珍藏 (1986)

    文獻:
    香港 1977, 編號 140
    Jutheau 1980, 頁 115, 圖1
    Treasury 3, 編號 385

    展覽:
    香港藝術館,1977年10月~11月
    L'Arcade Chaumet, 巴黎, 1982年6月
    佳士得,倫敦,1999年

    說明:
    關於包紋石(透蛇紋石)和本壺材料的特點,請參閱本壺的英文說明。包紋石鼻煙是非常稀罕的,無論早期的還是晚期的。顯得像滑石或黑玉的好像是特別受歡迎的。可參見 Perry 1960, 編號 93以及 Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, 編號 76、77、78。就本壺來說,二十多年來它被視為卵石狀子的古玉。
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first HKD800,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from HKD800,001 to HKD1,000,000 of the Hammer Price
12% on the excess over HKD1,000,000 of the Hammer Price.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Contacts
  1. Daniel Lam
    Specialist - Whisky
    Bonhams
    Work
    Suite 2001, One Pacific Place
    Hong Kong
    Work +852 3607 0004
    FaxFax: +852 2918 4320