An inscribed sapphire-blue glass overlay 'A Thousand Volume of Books' snuff bottle Songtai, probably Yangzhou, 1810-1880
Lot 127
An inscribed sapphire-blue glass overlay 'A Thousand Volume of Books' snuff bottle Songtai, probably Yangzhou, 1810-1880
Sold for HK$ 275,000 (US$ 35,457) inc. premium

Lot Details
An inscribed sapphire-blue glass overlay 'A Thousand Volume of Books' snuff bottle Songtai, probably Yangzhou, 1810-1880 An inscribed sapphire-blue glass overlay 'A Thousand Volume of Books' snuff bottle Songtai, probably Yangzhou, 1810-1880 An inscribed sapphire-blue glass overlay 'A Thousand Volume of Books' snuff bottle Songtai, probably Yangzhou, 1810-1880 An inscribed sapphire-blue glass overlay 'A Thousand Volume of Books' snuff bottle Songtai, probably Yangzhou, 1810-1880 An inscribed sapphire-blue glass overlay 'A Thousand Volume of Books' snuff bottle Songtai, probably Yangzhou, 1810-1880
An inscribed sapphire-blue glass overlay 'A Thousand Volume of Books' snuff bottle
Songtai, probably Yangzhou, 1810-1880
5.3cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 5, no. 1048

    白套藍玻璃萬卷書圖鼻煙壺
    松苔,或揚州,1810~1880

    An inscribed sapphire-blue glass overlay 'A Thousand Volume of Books' snuff bottle

    Transparent sapphire-blue glass and translucent white glass; with a flat lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding flattened footrim; carved as a single overlay with very slight carving in the ground colour on one main side, with a bat flying above a natural rock or root stand, with a blossoming branch emerging from behind it, set with a ding-shaped incense-burner, a covered incense-powder box and an incense- tool vase, with a rectangular jardinière beneath planted with what appears to be an orchid, inscribed in relief draft script with the signature, Songtai, the other main side with a perforated rock, with branches of blossoming apricot growing from behind its peak, beside a brush-pot engraved with bamboo decoration and containing a ruyi sceptre, two brushes, and a fly-whisk, a set of books, a rolled scroll, and a water-pot with a crackled glaze containing a ladle, inscribed in relief draft script with the title Wanjuan shu ('A thousand volumes of books'), followed by one seal of a person who may be the patron, Song
    Possibly Yangzhou, 1810-1880
    Height: 5.3 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.75/1.32 cm
    Stopper: dichromic tourmaline; vinyl collar

    Condition: some chips removed from upper neck, slightly changing the shape; tiny flaw in footrim with associated miniscule chips

    Provenance:
    C.K. Liang (1976)
    Thomas C. Van Nuys (1994)
    Robert Kleiner (1994)

    Published:
    JICSBS, Autumn 1994, p. 35
    JICSBS, Spring, 1997, p. 15, fig. 60
    Kleiner 1994, front cover and p. 7, no. 11
    Kleiner 1995, no.175
    Treasury 5, no. 1048

    Exhibited:
    British Museum, London, June-October 1995
    Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July-November 1997

    On Songtai, see lot 100 in this auction. This is the second known bottle bearing this full signature. There is a modern copy of this bottle, in brown on white, in JICSBS, Spring, 1997, p. 15, fig. 61. Another independent masterpiece from this artist it displays, again, astonishing use of shading in the overlay colour, best illustrated by the group of incense paraphernalia set on top of the rock on one main side. In better condition than lot 100, it displays a high gloss similar to other glass-overlay carvings but may well have started life with a more matt finish. Over the years, so much glass has been re-polished to restore the original gloss that, even if an artist were to apply a matt finish, it would run the risk of being mistaken for wear by a subsequent owner and re-polished. On this example we find hints of a closer connection to the Li brothers' bottles in Yangzhou than we were able to discern from the last in the careless blob of spare blue overlay colour incorporated into the neck, and also the slightly uneven matching of the overlay colour to the footrim.

    One aspect of the subject here deserves special explanation. If we take the books (shu) as a rebus for shangshu (throughout most of dynastic China, 'minister', head of a top-level administrative agency), the presence of the apricot blossoms suggests the epithet 'Pink-apricot-blossom minister', a reference to Song Qi (998 – 1061), a minister of the Board of Works in the early Song dynasty and a lyricist. It was one of his most famous lines, 'Pink apricot blossoms on their branches: spring makes a fuss', that earned him that epithet. To call someone a pink-apricot-blossom minister was to compliment him on his literary talent. The addition of all the other elements of this composition dilutes this message somewhat, but with the rock standing for longevity and the brush (bi) and ruyi sceptre interpretable as 'It will be as you wish' (biding ruyi), we can only conclude that this is a composite symbolic composition whose meanings were to be teased out one by one.

    白套藍玻璃萬卷書圖鼻煙壺

    透亮白地套透明藍寶藍料;平唇,微凸斂底,突出弄平的圈足;一正面刻博古圖,上書"松苔",另一正面刻另一博古回,上書"萬卷書",後鈐"松"一印
    或應屬揚州,1810-1880
    高﹕ 5.3 厘米
    口經/唇經: 0.75/1.32 厘米
    蓋: 二色碧璽;乙烯基座

    狀態敘述:頸上沿削除了些缺口,形式有所變更;圈足呈微小的瑕疵和相聯的微乎其微缺口

    來源﹕
    C.K. Liang (1976)
    Thomas C. Van Nuys (1994)
    Robert Kleiner (1994)

    文獻﹕
    《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》, 1994年秋期,頁 35
    《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》, 1997年春期,頁 15, 圖60
    Kleiner 1994, 封面 and 頁 7, 編號11
    Kleiner 1995, no.175
    Treasury 5, 編號1048

    展覽﹕
    大英博物館,1995年6月~10月
    Israel Museum, 耶路撒冷,1997年7月~月11月

    說明﹕
    松苔可能是嶺南收藏家伍延鎏 (1848 – 1919) 松苔館主。參閱本場拍賣會拍賣品號 100。這是已知帶松苔二字的鼻煙壺的第二件。近來有白地棕色料的復製品,見《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》, 1997年春期, 頁 15, 圖61。本壺比 拍賣品號 100的狀況好,表面光亮。
    本壺跟揚州李韻兄弟的套玻璃鼻煙壺有些相似的地方。譬如,壺頸上緣一處有料的斑點,而且,料和圈足有一點不重合。


    圖中的書籍和杏花合起來可能是紅杏尚書的畫謎。宋代宋祁,任工部尚書,所作《玉樓春》詞,有"紅杏枝頭春意鬧"之句,同時人張先稱之爲"紅杏枝頭春意鬧尚書"。以後也簡作"紅杏尚書"。以紅杏尚書稱人是讚揚那個人的文學成就很高。
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