An inside-painted glass snuff bottle Sun Xingwu, dated 1899
Lot 97
An inside-painted glass snuff bottle Sun Xingwu, dated 1899
Sold for HK$ 48,000 (US$ 6,190) inc. premium
Lot Details
An inside-painted glass snuff bottle
Sun Xingwu, dated 1899
Sold with accompanying watercolor by Peter Suart.
6.05cm high.


  • Treasury 4, no. 569


    The Teacher Returns

    Glass, ink, and watercolours; with a concave lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding rounded footrim; painted on one main side with a teacher returning to his study to find his five students playing blindman's buff, a table behind them set with an open book, other volumes of books, an inkstone, a brush pot with brushes, and a water pot, the wall behind hung with a landscape painting flanked by a calligraphic couplet, the first of the two showing only the last two characters, zhiji, 'a friend who truly understands one', while the second is complete and reads Qin shu jiu youren, 'The qin, books, old friends', the other main side with a collection of four paintings and a calligraphic specimen, the folding fan, without its frame, at the top of a landscape, inscribed in draft script 'Painted at the capital', with one illegible seal, a round fan painted with two fan-tailed goldfish among aquatic plants, inscribed 'Executed by Sun Xingwu in the year jihai', followed by one seal of the artist, yin ('seal'), in positive seal script, a folded painting of bamboo and rocks, inscribed in draft script 'Executed by Banqiao', with one illegible seal, and a rubbing of a four-character phrase, xianzhong yile ('An enjoyable pastime practised during leisure hours'), written in clerical script
    Sun Xingwu, Beijing, 1899
    Height: 6.05 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.6/1.72 cm
    Stopper: glass; vinyl collar

    Condition: Bottle: tiny chips possibly removed from outer lip, which is very slightly bevelled; the same with inner lip, which is neatly bevelled, but there are no remaining traces of chips; one tiny, insignificant chip in footrim. Painting: some unobtrusive minor smudging and some spoon scratches. General relative condition: Reasonably good

    Illustration: watercolour by Peter Suart

    Arts of China, Hong Kong (1986)

    Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 354
    Treasury 4, no. 569

    Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
    National Museum, Singapore, November 1994–February 1995
    Christie's, London, 1999

    This is one of Sun Xingwu's most unusual works, and his only known version of the subject of the naughty children playing while their teacher is out of the room. The subject was first painted by Zhou Leyuan in 1895 (Treasury 4, no. 471) and taken up by Ye Zhongsan in 1896 (Treasury 4, no. 512) and either artist's version may have inspired Sun to paint this one. However, the composition of his version is quite different from either Zhou's or Ye's. Indeed, in terms of the painting of the children, it is a finer work than Zhou's. It is combined with another extremely rare composition for Sun of various paintings and documents, a subject he appears to have painted only once before, a version from 1896 from the Michael Kaynes Collection. Three years on, this one is more sophisticated and, combined with the rare subject of the other side so charmingly painted, becomes one of Sun's masterpieces.

    It is clear in this context that 'Painted at the capital' on the folding fan should be read as Sun Xingwu's notation to accompany his own signature, which appears on the circular fan with fish. In contrast, the signature 'Banqiao' on the album with bamboo and rocks refers to Zheng Xie (1693–1765), one of the 'Eccentric Masters of Yangzhou' and an artist who specialized in the depiction of orchids, bamboo, and rocks.

    1899 was a peak year for Sun, both in terms of the number of bottles remaining extant and their consistently high quality. The records show three bottles from 1894; six from 1895; seven from 1896; four from 1897; seven again from 1898, and eleven from 1899. From his last year of painting, in 1900, there is only one extant work, dated to the fifth month. It shows not the slightest hint of a decline in quality; in fact it is among his masterpieces, suggesting that he may have passed away at the height of his powers shortly after painting that bottle.

    In common with so many of the glass bottles of the Beijing artists, most of Sun's works are painted inside bottles like this, the typical Beijing shape. It was available as a standard in Beijing from the early 1880s until well into the twentieth century; when other shapes are used, it can indicate that the artist is not in Beijing (see discussion under Treasury 4, no. 557).


    玻璃、墨、水彩; 凹唇,凸面斂底,突出凸形圈足; 一正面內畫教師回教室時,五個學生正在亂跑,捉迷藏,另一正面內畫八破圖,上邊的扇面題"畫於京師",後加不能辨認的印,下右圓形扇面題"己亥年孫星五作"後加朱文 "印" 篆印,折紙墨竹畫有"板橋作"一款與不能辨認的印,下面有拓本模樣的"閑中一樂"四字
    孫星五,北京,1899 年
    高﹕ 6.05 厘米
    口經/唇經: 0.6/1.72 厘米
    蓋﹕ 玻璃; 乙烯基座

    壺﹕ 唇外綠或有磨除的小缺口,但唇內緣也是斜切的,而沒有缺口的痕跡;圈足有微不足道的缺口。 畫﹕微乎其微的磨擦暗淡、匙擦痕。總體的相對狀況﹕相當好

    有彼德小話 (Peter Suart) 水彩畫

    Arts of China, 香港 (1986)

    Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, 編號 354
    Treasury 4, 編號 569

    香港藝術館,1994年3 月~6月
    National Museum of Singapore, 1994年11月~1995年2月

    這個題目有周樂元1895年畫的 (Treasury 4, 編號 471),也有葉仲三1896年畫的 (Treasury 4, 編號 512) ,不知道哪個先例是啟發孫星五的,但孫的設計跟他們的不一樣,而孩子們畫得比周樂元還好。在質量和數量兩方面,1899年是孫星五的高峰,詳細請教參見本壺的英文說明。
  1. Alice Leung
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  2. Daniel Lam
    Specialist - Whisky
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