An inside-painted rock-crystal snuff bottle Zhou Leyuan, dated 1891 (the bottle 1740-1850)
Lot 66
An inside-painted rock-crystal snuff bottle Zhou Leyuan, dated 1891 (the bottle 1740-1850)
Sold for HK$ 156,000 (US$ 20,117) inc. premium
Lot Details
An inside-painted rock-crystal snuff bottle
Zhou Leyuan, dated 1891 (the bottle 1740-1850)
6.5cm high.


  • Treasury 4, no. 496

    壺: 1740-1850
    內畫: 周樂元,北京,1891年

    Longevity and Success

    Crystal, ink, and water-colours; with a slightly concave lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; painted with a continuous landscape scene with the sun above two ancient pines with lingzhi growing beneath them and drifting mist, waterfalls, and mountain pools beyond, inscribed in draft script 'For the pure appreciation of the Prefect of Purple Brasenia, painted at the capital in the eleventh month of the year xinmao by Zhou Leyuan,' with one seal of the artist, yuan yin ('seal of yuan'), in negative seal script
    Bottle: 1740–1850
    Painting: Zhou Leyuan, Studio of Lotus-root Fragrance, Xuannan, Beijing, eleventh month, 1891
    Height: 6.5 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.68/2.17 and 2.05 cm (oval)
    Stopper: amethyst; vinyl collar

    Condition: Material: flawless except for a crack-like natural flaw about .6 x .4 cm, not disturbing; small chips removed from inner lip, leaving slight irregular concavity. Painting: insignificant, very slight snuff staining inside; otherwise in studio condition

    Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (1986)

    Kleiner 1987, no. 269
    JICSBS, Spring 1988, front cover
    Galeries Lafayette 1990, p. 11, fig. 6
    Treasury 4, no. 496

    Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
    Galeries Lafayette, Paris, April 1990
    Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

    The surname of the Prefect of Purple Brasenia is probably Fu, according to the headnote to a funerary duilian (parallel inscription) by Hu Zhongsheng (1862–1910) in Hu Fujun 2002, but nothing further is known of him at this time.

    This is one of Zhou's great masterpieces. Painted in what we may presume to be an earlier crystal bottle (a masterpiece in its own right), it is by far the most compelling of all Zhou's pine-tree-in-landscape subjects. It is not just an idyllic landscape. Here there are no scholars strolling toward their imaginary, ideal country retreats, no servant with a musical instrument, or ferryman waiting patiently in his boat to carry the aesthete wherever he may choose to go. This is high-mountain wilderness where ancient pines grow undisturbed and lingzhi can mature in peace without fear of the Daoist's hoe. Its meaning is symbolic. The pines and lingzhi represent longevity (see under no. 466) and the sun, success in an official career. The sun at its height is seen as symbolizing the highest level of achievement in one's career, bright and glowing and spreading warmth downwards, while a rising sun implies a successful path to this pinnacle. The sun has been painted without any colour whatsoever, giving it its apparent yellowish glow entirely by painting a pale, cloudy wash of grey-blue around it, strengthening near the orb. It might be mistaken for the moon, but if we imagine the bottle full of snuff, with its yellowish brown colour filling the colourless orb, its identity would be less ambiguous. When interpreting subject matter, or even other details of inside-painted snuff bottles, it is always worth remembering that they were designed to be filled with snuff, thus adding a coloured ground to any transparent bottle. This colour might be brown, reddish-brown, yellow, off-white, or even a greenish colour, depending upon the brand, quality and condition of the snuff.

    It is worth examining what qualifies this as one of Zhou's great masterpieces since we have been at pains to point out frequently that all of his mature works are of an extraordinary artistic standard and as such, this is no different from the last pine-filled landscape. Art is much more than technique, however, and there are other qualities here that breathe magic into the painting and, thence, into the soul. The bottle itself is extraordinary, which adds a considerable dimension to the painting. Unlike so many of the bottles Zhou painted, which must have been made in a standardized form for him and thus became a neutral surface, the medium here is exciting in its own right, being a lovely early crystal bottle of impeccable shape, superbly hollowed and with great presence. It is also on a grander scale than usual, being almost fifty percent wider than his average glass bottle, thus allowing for a greater sweep of landscape. Finally, the subject is unusual. However fine the painting, if an artist creates a series of standard images of similar subjects and then suddenly does just one that is quite unlike all the others, it catches the eye, which is the first imperative of visual art. However profound the inner languages, if the work of art fails to catch the eye in the first place, they will lie fallow. The combination of these three additional qualities is what sets this bottle apart.

    In taking advantage of the additional scope provided by the wider crystal bottle, Zhou has produced his finest painting of pines in the landscape, with two magnificent, ancient trees forming a network of foreground, shared only by a grassy knoll and the delightfully emphasized fungi, painted with sepia colours which are, along with the green of the pine needles, the only emphatic colours used. Beyond this network of trunks and branches lies a magnificent panorama of wilderness partially hidden in drifting clouds, with streams and waterfalls tumbling down to lakes, all of which is viewed from the lofty perspective of the grassy knoll on which the two pines grow.


    水晶、墨,水色;唇呈微凹形,平面斂底,突出圈足,圈足底完全接觸地面; 內畫通體 山水,有小溪、古松、靈芝等,一面又題"紫蒓太守大人清賞,辛卯冬月寫於都門,周樂元",又加白文"元印"篆印
    壺﹕ 1740~1850年
    內畫﹕周樂元,藕香書軒,宣南房舍,北京, 1891年11月
    高﹕ 6.5 厘米
    口經/唇經: 0.68/2.17 及s2.05 厘米 (橢圓形)
    蓋﹕ 紫晶; 乙烯基座

    質料﹕無瑕,但有0.6 x 0.4 厘米長的瑕疵,不煩人,唇內緣磨平了小缺口,因而呈不規則的凹痕。內畫﹕微不足道的鼻煙染色;此外,出齋狀態

    Hugh M. Moss Ltd (1986)

    Kleiner 1987, 編號 269
    《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》(JICSBS), 1988年春期,封面
    Galeries Lafayette 1990, 頁 11, 圖6
    Treasury 4, 編號 496

    Sydney L. Moss Ltd, 倫敦, 1987
    Galeries Lafayette, 巴黎,1990年4月
    Creditanstalt, 維也納, 1993年5月~6月

    紫蒓(蒪),不知何許人也, 胡復君2002,頁13錄胡鍾生(1862~1910)"挽傳紫蒪太守聯",據此,紫蒓應該姓傅。

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  2. Daniel Lam
    Specialist - Whisky
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