A carved cinnabar lacquer 'figures' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, 1730-1800
Lot 46
A carved cinnabar lacquer 'figures' snuff bottle
Probably Imperial, 1730-1800
Sold for HK$ 118,750 (US$ 15,136) inc. premium


28 Nov 2011, 10:00 HKT

Hong Kong, Admiralty

Lot Details
A carved cinnabar lacquer 'figures' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, 1730-1800 A carved cinnabar lacquer 'figures' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, 1730-1800 A carved cinnabar lacquer 'figures' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, 1730-1800 A carved cinnabar lacquer 'figures' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, 1730-1800 A carved cinnabar lacquer 'figures' snuff bottle Probably Imperial, 1730-1800
A carved cinnabar lacquer 'figures' snuff bottle
Probably Imperial, 1730-1800
Sold with accompanying watercolour by Peter Suart
6.13cm high.


  • Treasury 7, no. 1538


    A carved cinnabar lacquer 'figures' snuff bottle

    Cinnabar-red and black lacquer on wood; with a flat lip and flat foot; carved with two layers of colour, red on black, to varying depths with a continuous rocky foreground connecting to a large, perforated natural rock formation on one narrow side with foliage growing in the background, and on the other narrow side with another rocky outcrop with a tree growing in front of it, the two dividing the main sides into two separate scenes, one of a scholar holding a folding fan and strolling on the bank of a waterway with a bearded attendant behind him holding an umbrella aloft to protect him from the sun, the foreground with a formalized floral diaper, the water with a formalized wave design, and the sky, beyond a middle ground of rocks, with a formalized cloud design, the other side with a boy and his nanny, he with a rigid fan, she with a feather fan, she leaning against an outcrop of rock, he on the ground, with a terrace beyond and a pond bordered on the far side by rocks; the shoulders with a continuous band of formalized clouds, the neck with small raised circles on a ground of repeated squares beneath an upper-neck rim band of continuous leiwen (thunder pattern), which is repeated around the base; the foot carved with a formalized shou (longevity) character; the lip painted red
    Probably imperial, 1730–1800
    Height: 6.13 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.5/1.47 cm
    Stopper: cinnabar-red lacquer on wood; carved with a formalized chrysanthemum flower on a ground of formalized floral diaper with integral collar; possibly original
    Illustration: watercolour by Peter Suart

    Condition: small nibbles to the inner lip and outer footrim; tiny chip to the right side of the fan, another chip above the head of the small boy; various age-related cracks seen on this side; on the reverse, a repair to the hat of the dignitary, glued on the right side, a chip to the right side of the canopy; otherwise, surface well-worn from handling

    King Feng, Hong Kong (1987)

    Arts of Asia, September–October 1990, p. 93
    Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 263
    Kleiner 1995, no. 330
    JICSBS, Winter 2000, p. 15, fig. 46
    Treasury 7, no. 1538

    Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
    National Museum of Singapore, November 1994–January 1995
    British Museum, London, June–October 1995
    Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

    Cinnabar-lacquer is lacquer coloured by mercuric sulphide. It comes under the category of carved lacquer (diaoqi), although different colours and types have different names: tihong (carved red) is the term for cinnabar-red lacquer; tihuang is for yellow, and tihei is for black, while ticai (carved colours) refers to carved multi-coloured wares, and tixi is the name used for what has become known as guri-lacquer in the West, where alternating layers of red and black are cut with deep trenches to reveal different planes of colour. A series of deeply carved lacquer bottles, predominantly of cinnabar- red lacquer, but often including layers of black, brownish-ochre, and dark green, were produced in China in some quantities.

    The snuff bottles of this broad group are probably those referred to by Zhao Zhiqian in his late-nineteenth-century work on snuff bottles (Lynn 1991, p. 19): 'During the Qianlong era carved red lacquerware (tihong) type bottles were made in imitation of Ming lacquerware, but one does not often see these nowadays.' C:\Users\ssargent\Documents\Professional\Moss\Bloch Auctions\Bloch4Sale\OnlineBibliographySale4.docx - ZhuXia1988Six snuff bottles of the group remain in the imperial collection (see Gugong bowuyuan 1995, nos. 192–197, and Li Jiufang 2002, nos. 392–397). One wonders whether the palace workshops had a monopoly on the powers of persuasion that would motivate red-lacquer carvers, whose profession was known to be hazardous to health. We suggested in Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993 that the entire group was probably made at the palace workshops, as did Zhu Peichu and Xia Gengqi (Zhu and Xia 1998, plate 52), but this need not necessarily be the case. Suzhou was also known as a lacquer-making centre, and the imperial court maintained production facilities there for the production of a number of arts; Yangzhou was another lacquer-making centre. Given the quantities involved, it is plausible that the entire group was made at Suzhou or some other large-scale production centre for the court. Construction methods differ on very similar wares, as do the materials of the ground upon which pieces are lacquered. This one, for example, is on a wood base, while most are on bronze or brass, and Sale 3, lot 135, is unusual in having a lead or pewter lip. Such characteristics suggest perhaps a central patron and diverse production centres. It is also a possibility, of course, that the lacquer was made at one workshop and carved in another; these two workshops would not necessarily be geographically close. The production of the raw material, applying it in readiness for carving, and carving were three totally different arts. Once a blank form was made, it might have been carved either at a local carving workshop or at the palace workshops.

    We believe that the most likely time range for the snuff bottles of this group is from the Qianlong into the Jiaqing reign; the reign-mark evidence on related wares would suggest this. It is worth remembering that reign marks on imperial lacquer prior to the Qianlong period are very rare, so if it was only Qianlong and Jiaqing snuff bottles that were marked, it is quite possible that some of the unmarked ones are earlier. However, even if they began earlier, they appear to have been most popular in the late-Qianlong and Jiaqing years; moreover, the subject matter on a number of them echoes popular decoration on ceramic snuff bottles of the same period (see Treasury 6, nos. 1243–1246, for examples). Many of the scenes are taken from popular illustrated books or allude to figures from Chinese history.

    The raised dot border at the neck is an unusual departure for this group, as is the broad, raised, upper-neck rim. To be sure, this is a typical palace feature on snuff bottles in general, but together with the fact that the lacquer is on wood, it may indicate a different workshop from the core group. This may also be why the stopper, which fits perfectly and matches, is atypical for the group. If the stopper is the original, it raises the possibility of a different place of production for this bottle. As a rule, the group as a whole usually has either lacquer-and-gilt-metal stoppers (often carved with formalized chrysanthemum designs) or metal stoppers, perhaps with inlaid stone finials or cabochons—these account for half of those in the imperial collection. Of course, the stopper may be a later match, which would explain why the colour of the red lacquer is very slightly different from that of the bottle. It is even possible that the stopper was made in Japan, perhaps especially for this bottle, in which case it might have been one of those that went to Japan during the second half of the nineteenth century and inspired the carvers there to emulate the style after export opportunities began to open up for Japanese makers following on the Kanagawa Treaty of 1854.

    The Treasury commentary on this bottle includes a very complete list of known lacquer snuff bottles for the convenience of researchers.


    木胎上紅漆與黑漆;平唇,平底,黑漆層上剔通體高士郊外遊、童子保姆納涼圖,兩 景色之間插以坡石樹木等,底刻團壽字紋,唇塗以紅顏料
    高﹕ 6.13 厘米
    口經/唇經: 0.5/1.47 厘米
    蓋:木胎剔紅,雕形式化的菊花,下邊雕繡球朵花錦紋 ,與座為一體;或為原件
    帶有彼德小話 (Peter Suart) 水彩畫


    King Feng, Hong Kong (1987)

    Arts of Asia, September–October 1990, 頁 93
    Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, 編號263
    Kleiner 1995, 編號330
    《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》, 2000年冬期,頁 15, 圖46
    Treasury 7, 編號1538

    National Museum of Singapore, November 1994–January 1995
    Israel Museum, 耶路撒冷,1997年7月~月11月

    皇家珍藏還收藏六件剔紅類漆煙壺,見 故宮博物院 1995, 編號192–197及 李久芳 2002, 編號392–397。漆匠明明知道,他們的作業是未得其利先受其害的,說不定只有宮廷作坊才能逼迫人去髹漆剔漆。 Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993 說所有的漆煙壺很可能是宮廷作坊製的,朱培初、夏更起 1998, 插圖 52,也是這種看法,但是我們不要忽略,不但是蘇州有作坊奉詔而作漆器,揚州也是漆藝中心。當然,調製漆料、髹漆及刻漆是三不同的程序,不一定是在同一個作坊,甚至同一個地區進行的。

    表面上類似的漆器往往是漆下胎的材料不同。本壺用木胎,可是多數的漆煙壺是銅胎,而第三場拍賣會, 拍賣品號 135, 具錫鑞唇。我們認為,這品種鼻煙壺的斷代幅度應該是乾隆到嘉慶。儘管有不紀年的乾隆以前的製品存世,乾隆後葉及嘉慶朝還是剔漆旺盛的時代。


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  1. Xibo Wang
    Specialist - Chinese Works of Art
    Hong Kong
    Hong Kong
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