Shale; reasonably well hollowed, with a flat lip and protruding, foot carved as a functional, two-character seal; carved in relief on one side in positive seal script contained within a square cartouche Jingshan shouwan ('To be enjoyed in the hand by Jingshan'), and on the other side inscribed with a copy of a character in an obscure, ancient seal script with a commentary in draft script, one narrow side inscribed in clerical script 'In the style of bottles [inscribed with] the seal script [simulating the movement of] scaly dragons'; the foot carved as a two-character seal reading Aren (?) Jingshan, 17501880 Height: 5.52 cm Mouth/lip: 0.50/1.42 cm Stopper: spinach-green nephrite; silver collar
Condition: One significant chip and other minor chips to inner and outer lip; two small chips to outer footrim; some surface abrasions to soft stone. General relative condition: good
Exhibited: British Museum, London, JuneOctober 1995 Israel Museum, Jerusalem, JulyNovember 1997
The raised seal on one main side is that of the literatus , and the totally confident carving of the seal script establishes Jingshan immediately as a master seal carver, as does the style of the copied character on the other side and his commentary about it in fluent and impressive draft script. Jingshan is clearly a man very well used to writing on stone, and it presents no constraints to his artistic expression. It reads:
The character cannot be deciphered. Though Wu Kanshu [1747 1803] had thought it was a composite design of the dragon and the fenghuang, nothing could be proven. The matter must remain unsolved. The style of the seal script is wonderful, exuding an antique flavour. Mr. Xue's Inscriptions determined it to be a Shang-dynasty vessel, and that tenet has remained unchanged. Copied by Jingshan.
Wu Dongfa (1747 1803), courtesy name Kanshu, wrote works on epigraphy and ancient classics. Mr. Xue is the twelfth-century Xue Xianggong, author of Inscriptions on ancient bronzes, a work often consulted by Qing scholars.
This is one those rare bottles that has a functioning seal as its foot, making it both a snuff bottle and a scholar's seal. We are not entirely certain of our reading of the second character, but it may be the character ren, in this case a name, its conventional formalization manipulated by the seal carver for artistic ends. Unfortunately, we have not discovered the identity of Jingshanthe name was used by several Qing figures, but we have no reason to pick one of them as the owner of this bottle.