A pair of Baroque pearl and mixed-media snuff bottles Probably Imperial, attributed to Guangzhou, 1750–1820
Lot 133
A pair of Baroque pearl and mixed-media snuff bottles Probably Imperial, attributed to Guangzhou, 1750–1820
Sold for HK$ 300,000 (US$ 38,709) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
A pair of Baroque pearl and mixed-media snuff bottles
Probably Imperial, attributed to Guangzhou, 1750–1820
5.89cm high and 6.1cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 7, no. 1660 and 1661

    奇形珍珠及混合材料鼻煙壺一對
    或為御製品,推定為廣州,1750~1820

    A pair of baroque pearl and mixed-media snuff bottles

    ('Imperial Pearl Twins')

    Pearl-encrusted nacre, baroque pearl segments, bronze, gold, transparent green and brownish-red glass, and kingfishers' feathers; a pair; with flat lips and no functional foot; the bodies made of segments of baroque pearls glued together, with gilt-bronze shoulder mantle and neck, probably intended to suggest a fruit or vegetable (perhaps the bitter gourd), the shoulders inlaid with an outer band of alternating red and green glass beneath a band of inlaid kingfishers' feathers, the neck with alternating bats and shou (longevity) characters also inlaid in feathers
    Probably imperial, attributed to Guangzhou 1750–1820
    Heights: 5.89 and 6.1 cm
    Mouths/lips: 0.47/1.48 and 0.48/1.5 cm
    Stoppers: gilt bronze, each with a formalized floral pattern in twisted wire inset with kingfishers' feathers and four pearls; amber finials; silver spoons; original

    Condition: one inlaid 'gem' missing from the shoulder band of one bottle; otherwise, in workshop condition

    Provenance:
    Unidentified dealer, Shanghai (1931)
    Ko Collection (1987)

    Published:
    JICSBS, Winter-Spring 1983,front cover
    Kleiner 1987, no. 2071987 exhibition poster
    JICSBS, Spring 1989, front cover compilation
    Illustrated London News, Summer1990, p. 3
    Kleiner 1994a, p. 57
    Kleiner 1995, no. 353
    Treasury 7, nos. 1660 & 1661

    Exhibited:
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987
    Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
    British Museum, London, June–October 1995
    Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

    Associated paraphernalia:
    Fitted box; cardboard and silk brocade with a ruby-pink silk lining, the title panel on the cover inscribed' Mother-of-pearl snuff bottles, one pair'

    Commentary
    In saying this extraordinary pair of bottles from the Ko Collection is 'probably imperial', we are being somewhat loose with our terminology, as we think it was presented to the emperor rather than made at his command. One reason for believing that the present pair was probably made for the court is the fact that they are of pearl, which is directly associated with the emperor (see under Sale 1, lot 138). Even the matching stoppers are inset with pearls. These bottles are typical of the sort of costly and impressive gifts sent as tribute by local officials on several occasions during the year, including the emperor's birthday, to curry favour and impress. These two bottles would certainly have done both.

    A Guangzhou origin for these two bottles is likely because of the combination of inlaid kingfishers' feathers and the inlaid glass beads imitating precious stones, both of which are standard Guangzhou arts found on a wide range of wares produced forth court during the height of the Qing dynasty. (See, for instance, Tributes from Guangdong to the Qing Court, nos. 61,87, and 88, for the former, and nos. 82, 83, and 84 for the latter). Feather inlaid work was also done elsewhere, as we know from contemporary accounts (see below and, for an example apparently made at Shanghai in the late Qing dynasty, Treasury 7, no. 1666), but a bottle that combines feather work with the typically Guangzhou inlaid glass 'gems' is reasonably attributable to Guangzhou. We even know which street in Guangzhou specialized in decorations with kingfishers' feathers. John Glasgow Kerr's detailed and useful The Canton Guide, of which several editions were published in the late nineteenth century, notes that in Great New Street (Daxin jie) there are shops in which 'silver and copper ornaments are enamelled with the blue king-fisher's feathers.' The keen observer Constance Gordon Cumming also noted kingfisher-feather embellishment in Guangzhou while she was there in 1879 (Wanderings in China, p. 34):

    'We lingered long, watching jewellers making exquisite ornaments of kingfishers' feathers, green and blue, inlaid like enamel on a gold ground.'

    Not all feather inlay was done at Guangzhou, however. Gordon Cumming also visited Fuzhou in the same year and reported (pp. 132–133):

    But of all fascinating manufactures none is more attractive than the dainty and dazzling jewellery made of the exquisite metallic feathers of the blue and green kingfisher and blue jay, so worked into a setting of silver or gold as to resemble most beautiful enamel, yet with a silk-like gloss most puzzling on first inspection. Thesis the favourite style of jewellery here, and while great ladies wear it in the form of artificial butterflies, flowers, and leaves of the most refined work, very effective ornaments are made for their humbler sisters on a groundwork of base metal.

    奇形珍珠及混合材料鼻煙壺一對

    鑲貼珍珠的珍珠母、奇異形狀的珍珠片、青銅、黃金、透明綠色、紅赭 玻璃、以及翡翠羽;平唇
    大概為御製品,推定為廣州作,1750–1820
    高: 5.89 及 6.1 厘米
    口/唇﹕0.47/1.48 及 0.48/1.5 厘米
    蓋;鎏金青銅;琥珀頂飾;銀匙; 原件

    附帶定制的小盒﹕硬紙板,彩錦綢,粉紅絲綢裏布,蓋子題"珍珠母鼻煙壺一對"

    狀態敘述:一壺肩部脫掉了一顆"寶石"; 此外,出坊狀態

    來源:
    Unidentified dealer, Shanghai (1931)
    Ko Collection (1987)

    文獻:
    JICSBS, Winter-Spring 1983, front cover
    Kleiner 1987, 編號 207 1987 exhibition poster
    JICSBS, Spring 1989, front cover compilation
    Illustrated London News, Summer 1990, p. 3
    Kleiner 1994a, p. 57
    Kleiner 1995, 編號 353
    Treasury 7, 編號1660 & 1661

    展覽:
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987
    Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
    British Museum, London, June–October 1995
    Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

    說明:
    我們認為,這雙克立德珍藏的鼻煙壺是獻給皇帝的。珍珠和皇帝有密切的關係 (參閱 第一場拍賣會, 拍賣品號 138)。它們大概是廣洲的進貢品;鑲嵌的翡翠羽和鑲嵌玻璃珠子都是廣洲貢物常見的特點。參閱 Tributes from Guangdong to the Qing Court, 編號61、82、83、84、87、88).
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