A silver 'nine dragons' snuff bottle Yuanxin, 1760–1850
Lot 21
A silver 'nine dragons' snuff bottle Yuanxin, 1760–1850
Sold for HK$ 350,000 (US$ 45,135) inc. premium
Lot Details
A silver 'nine dragons' snuff bottle
Yuanxin, 1760–1850
6.29cm high.


  • Treasury 7, no. 1626


    A silver 'nine-dragons' snuff bottle

    Silver; with a protruding, slightly recessed flat foot surrounded by a shallow, protruding flat footrim; chased with a continuous design of nine four-clawed dragons amidst formalized waves, with five on one main side and four on the other, and a flaming pearl on each side; the foot impressed with two maker's marks in regular script, one identifying the metal as wenyin (solid silver), the other being the maker's mark Yuanxin (Fragrance of the Fount)
    Yuanxin, 1760–1850

    Height: 6.29 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.65/1.26 cm
    Stopper: gilt bronze, chased with a lotus design (made from half a garment button); gilt-metal collar

    Condition: Small crack in silver to the left of the large dragon's claw; otherwise, workshop condition

    Ko Collection
    Christie's London, 14 June 1971, lot 183
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd, London
    Irving Lindzon, Toronto
    Christie's New York, 21 September 1995, lot 329
    Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd
    J & J Collection
    Christie's, New York, 29 March 2006, lot 11
    Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd (March 2006)

    Treasury 7, no. 1626

    Christie's, Los Angeles 2003

    This unique early silver bottle is among the very few surviving antique silver bottles that are not of export style. It is also certainly among the most striking, with its splendid design of nine dragons. It was apparently inspired by an Imperial moulded porcelain bottle from the late Qianlong era, or (as we must always remind ourselves) it may have inspired the porcelain version. A porcelain example from the Princeton University Art Museum is illustrated in Hughes 2002, p. 206, no. 277.

    Although several export-style silver bottles are recorded, those made specifically to local Chinese taste and as part of mainstream manufacture for Chinese use are extremely rare. Another, also affiliated in one way or another with a particular moulded porcelain bottle (of the Jiaqing reign), is in the Carl Barron Collection. When two silver bottles resemble moulded porcelain examples, we are inclined to believe that the porcelain bottles came first. It is more likely that two bottles from a far larger group of Imperial moulded porcelain bottles would inspire isolated spinoffs in another material than that two very unusual silver bottles would be echoed in a few Imperial moulded porcelain bottles but have no wider effect on the group.

    We may be certain that both silver and gold bottles existed in far larger numbers originally. These two metals, unlike more prosaic metals such as white copper and bronze, were worth melting down for their material content, even if the quantity obtained was small, and there would have been times during the late-Qing and Republican periods when the value of the metal content would have been easier to realize by melting down snuff bottles. Another problem, of course, was that with value tied up in a work of art made of precious metal, it is not possible to realize it in parts; the entire bottle must be sold, and if a buyer cannot be found, the desperate owner may be better off converting it into something that is not only exchangeable but also divisible.


    高﹕ 6.29 厘米
    口徑/唇徑: 0.65/1.26 厘米
    蓋﹕ 鎏金青銅,鏤刻荷紋,半球扣子作的;鎏金金屬座


    倫敦佳士得,1971年6月14日, 拍賣品號 183
    Hugh M. Moss Ltd, London
    Irving Lindzon, Toronto
    紐約佳士得, 1995年9月21日,拍賣品號 329
    Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd
    J & J Collection
    紐約佳士得,2006年3月29日,拍賣品號 11
    Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd (March 2006)

    Treasury 7, 編號 1626

    Christie's, Los Angeles 2003

    在現存的舊銀質鼻煙壺中,像這樣中國式的寥寥無幾,雖然Carl Barron 珍藏也收藏一件嘉慶鑄造的同主題銀質鼻煙,壺大多數是為了輸出市場作的。當然,黃金質或者銀質鼻煙壺,遇到經濟危機的際,壺主就會把他熔化,以近水救近火,所以如此的煙壺要漸漸消失了。

    瓷胎的類似圖案有如 Hughes 2002, 頁 206, 編號 277。我們推定,瓷胎的大概是銀質的龍紋鼻煙壺的祖本。
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