A nephrite pebble-material snuff bottle with inscriptions
Xiangzhou zhai seal mark, 17501880 4.7cm high.
Treasury 1, no. 144
A nephrite pebble-material 'Xiangzhou zhai' snuff bottle
Nephrite of pebble material; very well hollowed, with a flat foot; the foot incised in seal script Xiangzhou zhai ('Offering the Broom Studio') 17501880 Height: 4.7 cm Mouth/lip: 0.55/1.95 and 2.01 cm (oval) Stopper: tourmaline; silver collar
Condition: Workshop condition
Provenance: Christie's, London, 6 December 1993, lot 218
Published: Treasury 1, no. 144
The nephrite from which this bottle was made has just a hint of skin-colour in one tiny patch on one main side. Unless so tiny a hint of skin was actually considered a necessary proof that the nephrite was gathered from a stream, not mined, the most likely reason for this tiny patch is that the colour from the skin went deeper in that area than the artist had anticipated. If he had removed it, it might have interfered with the formal integrity of the bottle, which is perfect.
The studio name on this bottle belonged to one Zhou Enshou (1810 1841; jinshi of 1835). Although Zhou was cashiered for some kind of corrupt activity, he seems to have led an active literary life. 'Offering a broom' means to offer up something ordinary and of no particular value as if it were precious treasure, simply because one is blinded by self-importance. When used in the name of a poetry collection or studio, it conveys the ironic sense that one knows one's efforts are worthless but is presenting them as valuable enough to publish, anyway.
Of all the hundreds of bottles which we had measured by the publication of Treasury 1, this is the only one so far where the oval of the neck has the broader dimension between the two main sides rather than from shoulder to shoulder.