An inside-painted glass 'Zhang Zhidong' snuff bottle Ma Shaoxuan, Ox Street district, Beijing, dated 1909
Lot 19
An inside-painted glass 'Zhang Zhidong' snuff bottle Ma Shaoxuan, Ox Street district, Beijing, dated 1909
Sold for HK$ 437,500 (US$ 56,440) inc. premium

Lot Details
An inside-painted glass 'Zhang Zhidong' snuff bottle Ma Shaoxuan, Ox Street district, Beijing, dated 1909 An inside-painted glass 'Zhang Zhidong' snuff bottle Ma Shaoxuan, Ox Street district, Beijing, dated 1909 An inside-painted glass 'Zhang Zhidong' snuff bottle Ma Shaoxuan, Ox Street district, Beijing, dated 1909 An inside-painted glass 'Zhang Zhidong' snuff bottle Ma Shaoxuan, Ox Street district, Beijing, dated 1909 An inside-painted glass 'Zhang Zhidong' snuff bottle Ma Shaoxuan, Ox Street district, Beijing, dated 1909
An inside-painted glass 'Zhang Zhidong' snuff bottle
Ma Shaoxuan, Ox Street district, Beijing, dated 1909
Sold with accompanying watercolour by Peter Suart
6.67cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 4, no. 593

    玻璃內畫張之洞像鼻煙壺
    馬少宣,北京牛街,1909年作

    An inside-painted glass 'Zhang Zhidong' snuff bottle

    Glass, ink, and watercolours; with a concave lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding rounded footrim; painted on one side with an ink portrait of Zhang Zhidong wearing a fur hat and a winter coat, the other main side inscribed in clerical script with '[May you enjoy] great wealth as well as longevity', preceded in regular script with the date 'Summer, fifth month of the year jiyou', and followed by the signature Ma Shaoxuan, with one seal of the artist, Shaoxuan, in negative seal script
    Ma Shaoxuan, Studio for Listening to the Qin, Ox Street district, Beijing, fifth month, 1909
    Height: 6.67 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.62/1.66 cm
    Stopper: aquamarine; gilt-silver collar

    Condition: Bottle: mouth slightly irregular, possible minor polishing. Painting: minor snuff staining, otherwise studio condition


    Provenance:
    Hugh Moss
    Private Collection
    Christie's, London, 12 October 1987, lot 322

    Published:
    Chinese Snuff Bottles No. 2, p. 44, fig. 7
    Arts of Asia, September–October 1978, p. 59
    Antiques Trade Gazette, 7 November 1987, p. 18
    Christie's International Magazine, September–October 1987, p. 29
    JICSBS, Winter 1987, p. 29
    Lyle Official Antiques Review 1989, p. 729
    Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 342
    Kleiner 1995, no. 417
    Ma Zengshan 1997, p. 61, fig. 51
    Treasury 4, no. 593

    Exhibited:
    Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
    National Museum, Singapore, November 1994–February 1995
    British Museum, London, June–November 1995
    Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997
    Christie's, London, 1999

    Zhang Zhidong (1837–1909) came from a line of officials going back at least to his great-grandfather, all of whom had served under Qing emperors. He received a first-class classical education and was placed first in the list of those who sat for their juren degree in 1852. In 1863, he passed the metropolitan examination for his jinshi degree, where his unusual choice of recent events and mode of writing puzzled the examiners, dividing them as to how his paper should be treated. The paper was referred to the Empress Dowager for final judgment, and Zhang was ranked among the top three scholars to pass. In 1879 Zhang had worked his way up through the ranks to be appointed a tutor in the Imperial Academy, from which position he was able to bring himself to the attention of the Empress Dowager by submitting an obsequious but brilliant memorial to the throne on the subject of a notable recent suicide. From then on, his career took him to various parts of the country as he increased his prestige and dealt with various problems, including a treaty with the French over Annam, the planning of major trunk railways in the interior of China, and the governor-generalship of various provinces. He was also involved in the industrialization of China and various infrastructure projects, and seems to have been a radical reformer wherever he went, improving defences, waterways, industry, and education, sending many students abroad to study, particularly to Japan. He was usually in opposition to Li Hongzhang (1823– 1907), one of the most famous statesmen of his day and also the subject of a Ma portrait and one by Ziyizi (Curtis 1980, pp. 1–7). Li tended towards conciliation with the enemies of China, who were many at the time, while Zhang pressed for a strong military response to maintain China's prestige and sovereignty, urging that both be defended to the bitter end. Zhang managed to ride out the difficulties of the defeat by Japan in 1894 and 1895 and the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 and emerged with even greater prestige at court in their aftermath, being appointed Junior Guardian to the Heir Apparent. In 1907 he scaled the final pinnacle to become Grand Secretary and Grand Councillor. In 1908, the deaths of the Empress Dowager and the emperor and the subsequent dismissal by the Prince Regent of such able officials as Yuan Shikai and Duanfang (see Sale 2, lot 154) left Zhang as the most eminent figure in the declining Manchu regime, but by then he was ageing and already exhausted by a long and strenuous career. He died in October 1909.

    This is another of Ma's portraits where two almost identical versions exist, each in a similarly shaped glass bottle, although in this case, unlike Sale 2, lot 154, they have different inscriptions and were done two years apart. The other is illustrated in Curtis 1980, p. 9, figs. 11 and 12. On p. 8 she illustrates the photograph from which both portraits were taken, which offers considerable insight into Ma's art of transforming photographs into portraits.

    We once wondered why another Zhang Zhidong bottle was deemed necessary two years after his death, but the answer is clear when one reads the inscriptions. This bottle was painted five months before Zhang died; its conventional wishes for wealth and long life would have seemed innocuous at the time. But, after his death, something different was needed. Although he was an opportunist on occasion, Zhang's conduct as a whole personified the Confucian ideals of contentment in poverty and honest integrity. He was frugal and honest, and is said to have died a poor man. Thus, the inscription on the 1911 bottle is far more appropriate: 'He was indifferent to fame and profit and so his strength of will shown forth; he maintained serenity and so his influence was far-reaching'.

    The qualities of this extraordinary statesman are captured here magnificently.
    This is another example where Ma has used white paint as well as left-over space to act as white. There is white paint used in the beard, and a very pale wash highlights areas of the coat (see discussion under Treasury 4, no. 607, not included in our online commentary for the bottle, Sale 3, lot 9). It is also another example where the calligraphy is not as impressive as it might be, although it hardly seems conceivable that Ma would have family members inscribe his all-important portrait bottles for him.

    玻璃內畫張之洞像鼻煙壺

    玻璃,墨,水彩;凹唇,凸斂底,突出圈足,圈足底為一圓棱; 一正面內畫張之洞肖像,另一正面內書"大富貴,亦壽考"引道為"己酉夏五月",以"馬少宣"及白文"少宣"篆印結尾
    馬少宣,北京牛街,1909年5月
    高﹕ 6.67 厘米
    口經/唇經: 0.62/1.66 厘米
    蓋: 海藍寶石; 鎏金銀座

    狀態敘述: 壺:唇有小許不均,或輕微磨過。內畫﹕內壁呈微不足道的鼻煙痕跡,除此之外,出齋狀態。

    來源﹕
    Hugh Moss
    私人珍藏
    倫敦佳士得,1987年10月12日,拍賣品號 322

    文獻﹕
    Chinese Snuff Bottles No.2, 頁 44, 圖7
    Arts of Asia, September–October 1978, 頁 59
    Antiques Trade Gazette, 7 November 1987, 頁 18
    Christie's International Magazine, September–October 1987, 頁 29
    《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》, 1987年冬期,頁 29
    Lyle Official Antiques Review 1989, 頁 729
    Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, 編號342
    Kleiner 1995, 編號417
    Ma Zengshan 1997, 頁 61, 圖51
    Treasury 4, 編號593

    展覽﹕
    香港藝術館,1994年3月~6月
    National Museum, Singapore, November 1994–February 1995
    大英博物館,1995年6月~11月
    Israel Museum, 耶路撒冷,1997年7月~月11月
    倫敦佳士得,1999

    說明﹕
    據馬增善1998,頁39,1911 年馬少宣很忙,不但"宮廷的差事接二連三", 而且他還畫英國王和王后的肖像。那麼,為甚麼在百忙之中還要重新再畫張之洞的肖像呢?而且,為甚麼1911年畫的跟五年前畫的差不多一模一樣,只是題句不同?關鍵是,本壺作於1909年5月,張之洞1909年10月卒。他生前,壺上題甚麼"大富貴,亦壽考"就是禮俗,沒甚麼怪,但在他逝世之後會顯得別扭。張之洞有的時候顯示了機會主義的傾向,但他必竟是最體現那種安貧樂道的品德。1911年畫的那件鼻煙壺的題句與本壺迥然不相同,是"淡泊以明志,寧靜以致遠",一定有人,或者是馬少宣本人,覺得對張之洞這樣已故的大人物來說,這麼寫才是適宜的。

    1911 年畫的張之洞像壺與肖像照片發表於馬氏上舉書圖21~23 以及Curtis 1980, 頁 8~9, 圖11、12。馬少宣肖像壺的復畫,也有第二場拍賣會,拍賣品號 154。
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