A fine and extremely rare carved honey agate snuff bottle 1800-1880
Lot 46
A fine and extremely rare carved honey agate snuff bottle 1800-1880
Sold for US$ 91,500 inc. premium
Lot Details
A fine and extremely rare carved honey agate snuff bottle
1800-1880
Exceptionally well hollowed, with slightly concave lip and recessed flat oval foot surrounded by a footrim, the semi-transparent grayish-lilac stone with deep orange red inclusions, deftly carved in low relief through a layer of mustard-orange on the principal side with a pair of chicks, both with their heads bent pecking at an incised butterfly, with a bat and lingzhi carved in low relief on one of the narrow sides, stopper.
2¼in (5.8cm) high (2).

Footnotes

  • 瑪瑙淺浮雕小雞圖鼻煙壺

    Provenance:
    Lilla S. Perry
    Georgia E. Roode, 1967
    The Neal W. and Frances R. Hunter Collection, California
    Sotheby's New York, 15 September 1998, lot 296

    Illustrated:
    L.S. Perry, Chinese Snuff Bottles. The Adventures & Studies of a Collector, Rutland and Tokyo, 1960, p.52, fig.35

    This bottle represents one of the finest agate bottles produced during the 18th and 19th centuries, displaying a rare combination of the grayish-lilac and orange tones within the stone. When discussed by Lilla Perry she described it as 'a marvel of imagination and ingenuity in the use of intrusive material'. The simplicity of the design and the strong contrast of the orange against the red and lilac tones mark this particular bottle out as a masterpiece of its kind.

    Although rarer than darker colored cameos, pale beige or off-white relief was a standard alternative for Official School bottles throughout the Qing period. However, the use of the mustard-orange cameo on the present bottle is exceptionally rare. Further rare examples of relief-carved chalcedony with unusual color combinations include a brown, white and orange example from the J&J Collection, illustrated by H.Moss, V.Graham and K.B.Tsang, The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle, New York, 1993, Vol.I, p.233, no.143; and a honey-colored agate with beige and yellowish-cream relief design illustrated by M.C.Hughes, The Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. Chinese Snuff Bottles, Baltimore, 2009, pp.108-9, no.85.

    The reddish-honey ground is a particularly rare feature for agate snuff bottles. Compare, however, a large bottle carved in relief through the brown skin to a similar colored ground, illustrated by J.G.Ford, Chinese Snuff Bottles. The Edward Choate O'Dell Collection, Baltimore, 1982, no.42.

    It has been argued that there is some relationship between the styling and detailing of jade, glass overlay and cameo hardstone carvings, as at the Palace Workshops, carvers who worked with one material may have equally been called upon to work with others. The principal similarity being that both glass overlay and cameo hardstone employ a different color in relief for their main visual impact.

    Birds in general were relatively easy to evoke from the natural markings of chalcedony, and are one of the most common subjects for the medium. However, this particular subject matter and depiction is rare and was no doubt dictated by the natural variation in color in the stone itself. A silhouette agate bottle in the Bloch collection, shows two birds, suggested to be either geese or ducks, with one similarly depicted pecking at something on the ground, see H.Moss, V.Graham and K.B.Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles. The Mary and George Bloch Collection, Vol.2, Hong Kong, 1998, no.272.
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