A silver 'figures in garden' snuff bottle Huiyuan, 1840–1910
Lot 48
A silver 'figures in garden' snuff bottle Huiyuan, 1840–1910
Sold for HK$ 43,750 (US$ 5,643) inc. premium
Lot Details
A silver 'figures in garden' snuff bottle
Huiyuan, 1840–1910
Sold with accompanying watercolour by Peter Suart
6.23cm high. (including original stopper)


  • Treasury 7, no. 1627


    A silver 'figures in garden' snuff bottle

    Silver; with a flat lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; repoussé and chased on each main side with a garden scene in a quatrefoil frame, one showing two boys playing with a firecracker in front of a small building with a pine tree growing nearby, the other with an elderly man holding a walking staff, attended by a young boy carrying a vase of blossoming prunus in a similar setting with a low balustrade, two buildings, a flowering prunus tree, and bamboo, the ground plane in both panels stamped to produce a pattern of small raised dots that are also used as an outer frame for the panels; the neck impressed with two seals, Huiyuan and zuwen (solid silver)
    Huiyuan, probably at a southern or southeastern silver -ware export centre,
    Height: 6.23 cm (including original stopper)
    Mouth/lip: 0.85/1.29 cm
    Stopper: silver; chased with a scholar seated in a garden setting, with integral collar, clockwise screw-threaded 'cork' and spoon; original

    Condition: Minor dents in upper neck, top left of one side and bottom right of the other; otherwise, workshop condition

    Watercolour by Peter Suart

    Private collection
    Sotheby's, London, 6 June 1988, lot 91

    Treasury 7, no. 1627

    Until the 1840s, most export silver was produced at Guangzhou (Canton), but after the first Opium War (1840–1843), other southern ports were opened to foreign trade, including, of course, Hong Kong, which was ceded to the British in 1841. The art quickly spread to the new ports. By the late 1840s, there were already more than a dozen silversmiths active in Hong Kong, and it soon took over from Guangzhou as the principal production centre for export silver (Forbes, Kernan, and Wilkins 1975, p. 38). Hong Kong also quickly became the main depot for ships trading at other recently opened southern ports such as Xiamen (Amoy), Shantou (Swatow), Fuzhou (Fuchow), and Shanghai. The destruction by fire of the Guangzhou factories and foreign concessions in 1856 cost Guangzhou its preeminent position in the export trade. Shanghai was one of the beneficiaries of this opportunity and rapidly became another major centre for silversmiths. After 1860, Beijing also developed an export silver trade to cater for tourists, who were arriving in ever-increasing numbers. Silversmiths required only raw material, a few tools, and a makeshift workbench of some sort to produce their wares, so they tended to proliferate wherever the clients were.

    Very few silver snuff bottles appear to have been made. Among the Chinese, silver was not considered a suitable material for keeping snuff in peak condition. Snuff bottles would have had limited appeal as export items, since most Europeans took snuff from boxes (although their mysterious, Eastern novelty value may have prompted occasional use of silver snuff bottles). As a result, few snuff bottles appear to have been made in the early phase of export wares from Guangzhou, prior to the early 1840s.

    The seals stamped, unusually, around the neck here are typical of Chinese export silver; one identifying the material as solid silver, the other identifying the maker. The name Huiyuan appears on a heavily chased dish with a foliate rim in Kernan 1985, no. 51. Chait dates the piece to the late Qing or the early twentieth century, implying that the present snuff bottle was made for export to a foreign collectors' market; but maybe not at Guangzhou. The condition accords with this assumption: it has been handled, but no more than would be commensurate with life in a display cabinet with occasional cleaning and dusting. Silver wears easily and quickly, and a bottle in regular use in either silver or gold would soon lose its surface detail and become considerably smoother.

    The construction here is fairly standard, the body apparently made in two halves, the basic relief design initially beaten out from the reverse side and finished by surface chasing. The two halves were then joined with the seams running up the narrow sides, and the neck and foot were added separately.

    We are in no doubt that the stopper is the original. The design matches and complements the panels, and it is fitted precisely into the inner neck with a screw thread. Having apparently spent most of its life in display cabinets, this bottle was less prone to losing its original stopper.


    銀質;平唇,微凸斂底,突出圈足,圈足底全面接觸地面;兩正面模鍛 、鏤刻海棠形開光,一面有兒童放爆竹,另一面有老人拐杖,兩面開光地與框戳小圈子 , 頸印有"匯源"、"足文"二印
    高﹕ 6.23 厘米(包括原件的蓋)
    口徑/唇徑: 0.85/1.29 厘米


    帶有彼德小話 (Peter Suart) 水彩畫

    倫敦蘇富比, 1988年6月6日,拍賣品號 91

    Treasury 7, 編號 1627

    關於輸出銀器商業的分布的歷史,參閱 Forbes, Kernan, and Wilkins 1975, 頁 38。銀匠只有賴於原料、若干道具、簡單的工作台,銀器商能很快地調適市場的條件。香港、上海、北京,到了十九世紀暮年都有興盛的向外的銀獸商業。銀質鼻煙壺寥若晨星,中國人認為銀質器不適合儲藏鼻煙,而聞鼻煙的歐州人習慣用鼻煙盒。1840年代早年前,廣州的輸出銀器中幾乎沒有鼻煙壺。.

    匯源印也出現在蔡特 (Chait) 珍藏所收的一件銀碟﹕Kernan 1985, 編號 51。蔡特氏認為那件碟是清末民國初鑄造的;那麼,眼前的鼻煙壺也可能是為國外市場鑄造的,但不一定是廣州作的。本壺的狀況也提供這個定期的依據。銀質耐磨性不好,可以看出來,本壺從來是擺件,有人偶爾拂一拂、磨一磨,但沒有儲存煙、抖出煙、壺主出門在外,並沒有陪同。
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