An inscribed yellow nephrite snuff bottle Shen Kan mark, possibly Imperial, perhaps palace workshops, Beijing, 1740–1820
Lot 19
An inscribed yellow nephrite snuff bottle Shen Kan mark, possibly Imperial, perhaps palace workshops, Beijing, 1740–1820
Sold for HK$ 237,500 (US$ 30,627) inc. premium
Lot Details
An inscribed yellow nephrite snuff bottle
Shen Kan mark, possibly Imperial, perhaps palace workshops, Beijing, 1740–1820
5.1cm high.


  • Treasury 1, no. 86


    An inscribed yellow nephrite snuff bottle

    Nephrite; very well hollowed, with a recessed foot; carved with mask-and-ring handles, the foot incised in regular script with the name Shen Kan
    Shen Kan mark, possibly imperial, perhaps palace workshops, Beijing, 1740–1820
    Height: 5.1 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.49/1.68 and 1.60 cm (oval)
    Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar

    Condition: Minor chip on inner footrim; otherwise, workshop condition

    Blair Hills
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (Hong Kong, 1985)

    Treasury 1, no. 86

    There is another bottle that is almost identical to this one in choice of material, height, shape, handles, small mouth, and hollowing (which is excellent in the upper reaches of the bottle but leaves a heavy foot—6 cm deep in this case, 8 cm in the other). It is illustrated in Franz 2010 p. 131, no. 421. The main differences are that the second bottle has no name incised on the foot and it has a thin upper neck rim. Both must be from the same workshop at the same time, and probably from the same piece of yellow-green jade which has some very fine, paler flecking in it.

    Features which allow a tentative attribution to the palace workshops are the distinctive hollowing, the small, superbly carved mask handles with circular and rather realistically detailed heads and perfectly round rings, the material, which was obviously a favourite of the Qianlong emperor, and the lipped upper neck on the other example. Although this lip is thinner than normal for the palace group, it is such an unusual feature on an otherwise standard cylindrical neck on a largely plain form that is likely to have occurred only in a workshop that was used to adding such a detail.

    The colour of the material here is delightful and, on one side, quite flawless. The other side has tiny flecks of paler colour that give it a very slightly textured effect when examined closely. Like Sale 2, lot 127, the colour is closer to a real yellow than many so-called 'yellow' jade bottles, and what little carving there is reveals a lapidary of consummate skill.

    The name that is neatly incised in regular script under the foot raises the intriguing question of what it is doing there if the bottle is Imperial. The first step is to verify that this actually is a name, and it appears that this is the case. The name Shen Kan appears in a collector's seal on a few paintings attributed to Ming painters. He may be Ming or Qing; nothing is known of him. A Shen Kan also appears as the husband of a virtuous woman in an entry for 1573 in the Veritable Records of the Ming, but that was a pre-snuff age, of course. In any case, it is extremely rare to see an ordinary person's name on an Imperial bottle, whether it be the name of the maker, a patron, a recipient of the bottle as a gift, or a collector.


    黃玉,掏膛很規整,斂底 ; 有獸首啣環耳,底心陰刻沈堪款識
    沈堪款,或為御製品,或許是御用作坊作的,北京, 1740–1820
    高﹕ 5.1 厘米
    口徑/唇徑: 0.49/1.68 及 1.60 厘米 (橢圓形)
    蓋﹕ 碧璽;乙烯基座


    Blair Hills
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (Hong Kong, 1985)

    Treasury 1, 編號 86

    極其類似的煙壺有 Franz 2010 p. 131, 編號 421,只是那件沒有底款,而口沿出細唇一圈 。我們認為,兩件都是同一個作坊製的,大概也是用同一塊玉雕琢的。


    可是,如果這件煙壺是御製品,那麼,底心刻的名字是怎麼回事?《明實錄類纂》有烈婦"歸德府儒士沈堪妻王氏"者,陸以諴(乾隆時人)和朱彝尊《鴛鴦湖棹歌》一首詩有注引沈堪詩一聯,天津藝術博物館藏董其昌一幅畫鈐"沈堪審定"一印,但除了沈堪妻的事是1573年的事以外,我們無從知道其他的沈堪是清朝人還是明朝人。反正,沈堪一定是人名,儘管御製鼻煙壺上刻一般人的名子的例子寥寥無幾 。
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