An inscribed black and white nephrite 'scholar and landscape' snuff bottle Probably Sun (?) Bing, Suzhou, 1760–1840
Lot 33
An inscribed black and white nephrite 'scholar and landscape' snuff bottle Probably Sun (?) Bing, Suzhou, 1760–1840
Sold for HK$ 1,680,000 (US$ 216,740) inc. premium

Lot Details
An inscribed black and white nephrite 'scholar and landscape' snuff bottle Probably Sun (?) Bing, Suzhou, 1760–1840 An inscribed black and white nephrite 'scholar and landscape' snuff bottle Probably Sun (?) Bing, Suzhou, 1760–1840 An inscribed black and white nephrite 'scholar and landscape' snuff bottle Probably Sun (?) Bing, Suzhou, 1760–1840
An inscribed black and white nephrite 'scholar and landscape' snuff bottle
Probably Sun (?) Bing, Suzhou, 1760–1840
7.46cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 1, no. 126

    墨玉拱手拜會圖鼻煙壺
    或為孫(?)炳作,蘇州,1760~1840

    An inscribed black and white nephrite 'scholar and landscape' snuff bottle

    ('Sun Bing's Topic of Conversation')

    Nephrite; well hollowed, with a concave lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a flat footrim; carved on one side with a scholar in a boat reaching towards a woman holding a small parasol standing on a rocky shore beneath a small pine tree, with two other trees growing from the bank, and on the other side with a pine tree and a towering rock inscribed overall in draft script with a poetic inscription followed by a name divided into two seals, Sun (?) and Bing
    Probably Sun (?) Bing, Suzhou, 1760–1840
    Height: 7.46 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.7/2.2 cm
    Stopper: coral; silver collar with three impressed seals, Beijing, Baoshan ('Precious Virtue [Establishment]') and Zuyin ('100% silver'); with integral collar and spoon

    Condition: The mouthrim is very slightly irregular, suggesting it may have been polished, but overall it is in good condition.

    Provenance:
    Roland Hartman (circa 1969)
    Hugh Moss
    The Belfort Collection (1986)

    Published:
    Moss 1971, p. 71, no. 186
    Wills 1972, p. 118, fig. 90
    JICSBS, December 1977, p. 21, no. 35
    Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, no. 159
    JICSBS, December 1978, p. 34, no. 159
    Jutheau 1980, p. 115, fig. 3
    Très précieuses tabatières chinoises 1982, p. 15
    Kleiner 1987, no. 36
    Galeries Lafayette 1990, p. 6. no. 6
    Kleiner 1995, no. 93
    Treasury 1, no. 126

    Exhibited:
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd., London, 1974
    Hong Kong Museum of Art, October–December 1978
    L'Arcade Chaumet, Paris, June 1982
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
    Galeries Lafayette, Paris, April 1990
    Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
    British Museum, June–October 1995

    Commentary
    This noble and famous snuff bottle is typical of the classic output of the Suzhou school in material, style, and quality of carving. The material is of unusually pale grey colour for the school, but the whiter relief is so well used that the separation allows it the same impressive cameo quality of its darker counterparts within the school. The simple design is very effective, with the two main protagonists separated by a diagonal bank of serrated rocks. We have no idea what the subject refers to specifically, although there seems to be a little courting going on from the coy way the woman is holding her tiny parasol and the eager anticipation on the face of the scholar as he leans hopefully forwards.

    The lengthy draft-script inscription that covers the other side of this bottle is typical both of the school and of a sub-group of Suzhou bottles where the main subject is backed by either a plain surface or low-relief carving over which is written a flowing poetic inscription followed by a signature, here in the form of two seals, which is nearly always an art name and otherwise unidentifiable with any known individual. We have ascribed it as 'probably Sun Bing' only because it is possible that this is the name of the poet rather than the inscriber, although with Suzhou wares of this group in general this seems unlikely. There is an interesting feature of many of these bottles that suggests that they may be not only stylistically homogeneous in their use of inscriptions in this way, but from the same sort of period and perhaps all by one hand. Combined with the standard relief carving using the different colours of the material to distinguish the main features of the design, simply incised lines are used on the ground plane to indicate either water or clouds. The incised lines are well employed here for water, but in many cases they seem somewhat at odds with the superb
    quality and careful execution of the rest of the design. Once this phenomenon is recognized, it can be found more subtly used in other wares of the classic group (see, for instance, the reverse of Treasury 1, no. 127, which has similarly incised lines), but perhaps the evolution to its more rudimentary use, where it is not so well integrated into the relief carving, suggests the hint of a decline in the extraordinary commitment obvious on the finest of the classic Suzhou bottles. Maybe these bottles may be more likely to date from the mid-Qing period and perhaps into the early nineteenth century. Our only clue so far to the precise dating of this group of classic black-and-white Suzhou bottles is an extremely rare example dated to 1792 sold at Sotheby's, Hong Kong (5 May 1994, lot 1496) and now in the Franz Collection. See Franz 2010, pp. 122 – 123 and 273 – 284.

    The inscription here appears to be a heptasyllabic quatrain. However, like many of this group, it has proven to be extremely difficult to decipher because of its whimsical nature and the short-hand forms so frequently used in sophisticated draft-script. The translation offered in Treasury 1 was so tentative that it would serve no purpose to repeat it here.

    The stopper is unlikely to be the original, unless the bottle was made for a client who then had a stopper added in Beijing, although it is unlikely that a Suzhou workshop making snuff bottles would sell them initially without some sort of stopper on them, however rapidly the owner might wish to change it for one more to his taste. The exterior of the collar is finely chased and was once gilt, but the underside is not gilt and is impressed with a silver mark stating that the silver is pure, a shop mark identifying the maker, about whom we have been unable to find any further information, and the place of manufacture, Beijing. The impressed silver marks are unusually clear, having been protected from wear by their inaccessibility to the hand and the concave lip. Rarely is a bottle, let alone a stopper, so well documented.


    墨玉拱手拜訪會圖鼻煙壺

    掏膛徹底, 凹唇, 凸形斂底, 圈足底完全接觸地面;一正面題文後加二印,"孫"(?)及"炳"
    大概為孫(?)炳作,蘇州,1760–1840
    高:7.46 厘米
    口經/唇經:0.7/2.2 厘米
    蓋: 珊瑚;銀座,打造著三道印記:北京、寶善以及足銀;與座及匙為一體 ;大概不是原件

    狀態敘述: 唇稍微不平,或許是因為磨削過

    來源:
    Roland Hartman (circa 1969)
    Hugh Moss
    The Belfort Collection (1986)

    文獻:
    Moss 1971, p. 71, 編號 186
    Wills 1972, p. 118, fig. 90
    JICSBS, December 1977, p. 21, 編號 35
    Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, 編號 159
    JICSBS, December 1978, p. 34, 編號 159
    Jutheau 1980, p. 115, fig. 3
    Très précieuses tabatières chinoises 1982, p. 15
    Kleiner 1987, 編號 36
    Galeries Lafayette 1990, p. 6. 編號 6
    Kleiner 1995, 編號 93
    Treasury 1, 編號 126

    展覽:
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd., London, 1974
    Hong Kong Museum of Art, October–December 1978
    L'Arcade Chaumet, Paris, June 1982
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
    Galeries Lafayette, Paris, April 1990
    Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
    British Museum, June–October 1995

    說明
    這件有名的鼻煙壺是典型的蘇州玉作。 這種題文也是一種蘇州玉作煙壺常見的:地是光素的或是淺浮雕, 文後的款識是身份不名的人的名字。不幸的是,本壺題的文字寫得太草了,很不容易辨認,好像是一首七絕,待考。

    鑒定這種灰白相間的蘇州墨玉煙壺的年代,目前只有一個線索,那就是一件張騫乘槎煙壺,也是墨玉質,局部呈白色,後面刻一首十絕壁,其後加"壬子仲冬為葆初三兄大人屬并正正雲書",壬子乃西曆1792年。那件是蘇富比,香港,1994年5月5日賣的,排賣品號 1496; 現為Franz珍藏所收藏,參見Franz 2010, 頁 122 – 123 及273 – 284。
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