An inside-painted crystal 'insect and minnows' snuff bottle
Ye Zhongsan, the Apricot Grove Studio, Chongwen district, Beijing, dated 1899 5.35cm high.
Treasury 4, no. 520
An inside-painted 'insect and minnow' snuff bottle
Pale brown crystal, ink, and watercolours; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; painted with a continuous subject of a dragonfly and a cicada flying above a grass-covered rocky outcrop on which a katydid and a grasshopper crawl, with a group of five minnows swimming in a pond beside which a cabbage grows, inscribed in draft script 'Executed by Ye Zhongsan in the fifth month of the year jihai for the pure enjoyment of Zhonglin, the honourable second elder brother', followed by one seal of the artist, huayin ('painting seal'), in negative seal script Ye Zhongsan, the Apricot Grove Studio, Chongwen district, Beijing, fifth month, 1899 Height: 5.35 cm Mouth/lip: 0.47/1.50 and 1.45 cm (oval) Stopper: jadeite; vinyl collar
Condition: Bottle: a series of small nibbles around the inner lip; very small partially polished chip on inner footrim. Painting: slight fading of some of the colours
Exhibited: Hong Kong Museum of Art, MarchJune 1994 National Museum, Singapore, November 1994February 1995 Christie's, London, 1999
Here, Ye has copied Zhou Leyuan's subject and his style closely (cf. Treasury 4, no. 500), as he did so often in his career, straying from the master's original version only in the nuances of personal style. For another example of this same subject painted very much in Zhou's style, see Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 433.
We have no positive identification of Zhonglin. There is a man who used this courtesy name and became a famous Shanghai calligrapher after the fall of the dynasty: Li Ruiqing (1867 1920). He obtained his jinshi degree in 1895 but left Beijing in 1899 to go to Yunnan with his father. He could well be our man, but it must be stressed that there were many other men, less well documented, who also used the name Zhonglin.