A carved amber 'bats and peach' snuff bottle 1740-1820
Lot 129
A carved amber 'bats and peach' snuff bottle 1740-1820
Sold for HK$ 75,000 (US$ 9,671) inc. premium
Auction Details
A carved amber 'bats and peach' snuff bottle 1740-1820 A carved amber 'bats and peach' snuff bottle 1740-1820 A carved amber 'bats and peach' snuff bottle 1740-1820 A carved amber 'bats and peach' snuff bottle 1740-1820 A carved amber 'bats and peach' snuff bottle 1740-1820 A carved amber 'bats and peach' snuff bottle 1740-1820
Lot Details
A carved amber 'bats and peach' snuff bottle
1740-1820
4.33cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 7. no. 1590

    琥珀雕蝙蝠紋桃形鼻煙壺


    A carved amber 'bats and peach' snuff bottle

    Transparent, slightly cloudy, brown amber, with partial, slight crizzling; carved in the form of a peach, its surface with a severed leafy branch and five bats
    1740–1820
    Height: 4.33 cm
    Mouth: 0.47 cm
    Stopper: tortoise-shell, carved in the form of a flying bat; with integral cork and spoon

    Condition: natural flaws within amber; tiny indentation just below lip, barely visible; otherwise, workshop condition

    Provenance:
    Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 15 May 1994, lot 1339

    Published:
    Treasury 7, no. 1590

    The most telling point in favour of a palace attribution here is the style, which is so close to that of the finest nephrite naturalistic examples that it seems likely that they were made under the same circumstances for the same patron across a wide range of materials, which is more typical of the multi-disciplined palace workshops than of private production, where workshops tended to specialize in one range of materials.

    The crizzling here is more sparsely spaced than on several other amber bottles in the collection; it also does not cover the entire outer surface, leaving one side largely unaffected. This may suggest that it has lain in storage for a long period of time, perhaps with one side somewhat protected from the ravages of climate. This is distinctly tenuous as evidence, but it is worth bearing in mind that many of our imperial bottles may have remained in the imperial collection, stored and unused for more than a century, until a large part of the collection was dispersed through the sacking of the Summer Palace in 1860, the results of the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, and the anomalous period between the end of the dynasty in 1911 and the eviction from the Forbidden City of the last emperor in 1924. The first two events were excuses for extensive looting, while the last left the imperial family and its retinue without any government funds, forcing them to fall back on selling off imperial treasures to maintain their lifestyle. At the same time, of course, the unscrupulous were also helping themselves to such treasures on a regular basis. The unauthorized disposal of imperial works of art finally attracted the attention of the abdicated emperor, Pu Yi, shortly before he was evicted from the palace forever. In 1923, he ordered an audit of treasures, apparently focussing on the Jianfu gong, one storehouse for works of art where gold Buddhist altar ornaments, Buddhist paintings, several hundred pieces of porcelain, jades, bronzes, and thirty-one boxes of robes were stored. Eunuchs panicked and decided to set fire to the building in order to disguise the fact that a great many of the treasures had mysteriously disappeared over the previous decade or more since 1912, and possibly even before. The most detailed account of this cultural vandalism appears in Reginald F. Johnston, Twilight in the Forbidden City (first published in 1934), pp. 335–337.

    If ever a stopper looked like the original, this one does. It even comes very close to fitting the curvature around the mouth of the bottle. That it is unlikely to be the original, however, is suggested by the symbolism and by the length of the integral spoon (original to the stopper), which is far too short. The bottle is already decorated with the symbolically significant five bats (representing the five blessings). Seven and nine would also be auspicious, being lucky numbers, but six has no specific meaning and would be an unlikely number for a functional Qing snuff bottle made for an audience that knew precisely what five bats meant, and for whom a sixth would be entirely superfluous.

    There is a related amber bottle of a similar colour in the Denis Low Collection (Low 2002 no. 265).


    琥珀雕蝙蝠紋桃形鼻煙壺

    透明,微不清昕的琥珀,呈微乎其微的細裂紋,雕桃形,桃表面雕折枝及五隻蝙蝠
    1740–1820
    高﹕ 4.33 厘米
    口經: 0.47 厘米
    蓋:玳瑁,雕蝙蝠 , 與塞、匙為一體

    狀態敘述:材料中呈天然的瑕疵,唇下有微乎其微陷入的地方,幾乎看不見;此外,出坊狀態

    來源﹕
    香港蘇富比, 1994年3月15日, 拍賣品號 1339

    文獻﹕
    Treasury 7, 編號1590

    說明﹕
    本壺的風格很像最精彩的御製閃玉像生造型煙壺。一種形式多種材料表示出宮廷作坊的多樣性;民間的作坊多半會專攻一種材料。

    這件蓋很適合這件鼻煙壺,但是一定不是原件。匙太短,而且壺身雕五隻蝙蝠就夠了,不需而不要加上蓋上的一隻。

    Denis Low 珍藏收有顏色相近的一件琥珀煙壺 (Low 2002 編號265).

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