An inscribed dendritic chalcedony 'bird' snuff bottle   Official School, 1750–1880
Lot 16
An inscribed dendritic chalcedony 'bird' snuff bottle Official School, 1750–1880
Sold for HK$ 87,500 (US$ 11,290) inc. premium
Lot Details
An inscribed dendritic chalcedony 'bird' snuff bottle
Official School, 1750–1880
5.8cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 2, no. 275

    玉髓巧雕雛鳥鼻煙壺
    頒賜品, 1750~1880

    An inscribed dendritic chalcedony 'bird' snuff bottle

    Chalcedony; very well hollowed, with a concave lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a flat footrim with rounded edges; the natural markings in the stone added to with incised lines to complete a design of a chick on a rocky bank, inscribed in seal script, Chunfeng deyi ('Pleased and proud in the springtime breeze')
    Official School, 1750–1880
    Height: 5.8 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.72/1.99 cm
    Stopper: tourmaline; gilt-copper collar

    Condition: Slight bruise in neck with associated tiny outer-lip chip; line running from the footrim inward across base, part of a natural flaw; miniscule chip towards the tail of the quail, insignificant

    Provenance:
    Trojan Collection
    Robert Hall (1993)

    Published:
    Hall 1992, no. 43
    Kleiner 1995, no. 266
    Treasury 2, no. 275

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

    The identity of the bird here is uncertain. Robert Hall saw it as a quail but it might equally be a chick or any number of other young birds.

    The inscription is a common phrase derived from a poem by the Tang poet Meng Jiao, speaking of his joy at finally passing the recruitment examinations. The hope it expresses could be for general success, not only on the examinations. Such sentiments received on a valuable snuff bottle given by one's emperor would be likely to encourage loyalty and commitment to official service, ultimately the main reason for such gifts, of course.

    Such bottles might also have been made for lower ranks of the Imperial family or members of the official class to give to others either for the same reason or to attain some other benefit in return, such as an audience with a higher official, a word in the right ear, or whatever was desired in the complex and often none-too-genteel corruption at court. The fact that it is written in seal script suggests that both donor and recipient were from the educated elite of rulers and scholars, for otherwise they would not be able to read this esoteric script.

    Although extremely well formed and hollowed, this example has the lazier, recessed convex foot discussed under Sale 3, lot 11. The centre of the inner foot is, in fact, at exactly the same level as the footrim in this case. This may suggest the beginning of the decline we have proposed for this and other technically less painstaking solutions to detailing, but otherwise, shape, style, hollowing, and quality would all allow, even if they do not dictate, a date in the second half of the Qianlong era. As with all declines, it has to start somewhere, and this may represent an earlier example where the first hints of laziness creep in, the thin-end of the wedge, so to speak.

    玉髓巧雕新雛鼻煙壺

    玉髓; 掏膛非常規整, 凹唇,斂底,圓壁平底圈足,以俏色巧作和陰刻雕出坡石新雛圖,陰刻"春風得意"
    頒賜品, 1750–1880
    高﹕ 5.8 厘米
    口徑/唇徑: 0.72/1.99 厘米
    蓋﹕ 碧璽; 鎏金銅座

    狀態敘述:頸部呈微小的擦傷,唇外沿有相關的細小缺口,底呈天然的瑕疵,雛身近尾有微不足道的缺口

    來源:
    特落伊珍藏
    羅伯特.霍爾 (1993)

    文獻﹕
    Hall 1992, 編號 43
    Kleiner 1995, 編號 266
    Treasury 2, 編號 275

    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

    羅伯特.霍爾認為圖中的鳥是鵪鶉,亦可。

    本壺造型很好,掏膛規整,但凸出斂底有一點馬虎。參見第三場拍賣會,拍賣品號 11 (英文)的論討。 底的中心和圈足是一樣的高度。這可能是技巧衰退的預兆。不過,本壺的形式、風格掏膛、品質等,都符合乾隆後半葉的作風。因此,可視為乾隆下降的預兆而已。
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