A double-overlay glass 'Legend of the White Snake' snuff bottle
Qing dynasty, 1780-1820 Of compressed globular shape supported on a ringed oval foot, intricately carved through the black and white with a continuous landscape scene, featuring the tale of baishejuan, all against a brilliant turquoise ground and beneath downward leaf lappets at the neck. 6cm high.
Exhibited: Chinese Snuff Bottles, jointly presented by Hong Kong Chinese Snuff Bottle Collectors Study Group and the Urban Council, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 15 October to 26 November 1977
Illustrated: Bob Stevens, Snuff Bottles, New York, 1976, p.73, pl.230 Chinese Snuff Bottles, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1977, pp.27 & 123, pl.18
The scene depicted on the current snuff bottle is taken from the Legend of the White Snake, which was composed during or before the Southern Song dynasty. The story tells of a young literati Xu Xian, who falls in love with a thousand year old white snake spirit named Bai Suzhen. A monk named Fa Hai tries to stop the romance between a human and an immortal, forcing Bai to reveal her true identity in front of Xu, which scares him to death. Bai tries to save Xu by stealing the essence of vitality from the heavens to revive Xu. However ,upon revival he is caught by Fa and locked away at Jin Mountain. In anger, Bai besieges Jin Mountain and tries to rescue Fa by causing a great flood. The flood causes countless deaths which angers the high heavens, which punish Bai by imprisoning her in Leifeng pagoda. Before her imprisonment, Bai gives birth to their son, which in future will return to rescue Bai.
It is extremely challenging for the glass carver to carve a double-overlay snuff bottle of this form. It requires considerable plan and the design must be pre-determined in advance. The amount of time and preparatory work contribute to the rarity of double-overlay snuff bottles like the current lot, especially with such exquisite craftsmanship and the incorporation of such a wide variety of colours.
For a closely related example of this rare group see Moss, Graham and Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles: The Mary and George Bloch Collection, Vol.5, Glass, Hong Kong, 1995, pp.680-681, no.1003, and sold in these rooms, 27 May 2012, lot 7. The authors refer to the current lot as being 'the only other of this particular and imposing colour combinatiom'. In their dicussions of no.1002, ibid, pp.677-678, another double-overlay glass snuff bottle in green, white and blue with a scene of Zhuge Jun in a pavilion, they argue that this group of bottles, all characterised by plantain-leaf borders round the neck, are clearly the work of the same production team. The fact that another closely related double-overlay bottle from the Barron Collection is inscribed 'a gift from the Inner (Palace) of the Qianlong Emperor' suggests that this entire group possibly dates from the late Qianlong period.
這種套兩層玻璃的鼻煙壺是一件很考雕者功夫的作品，因為上下兩層構圖必須要互相配合，既不可複雜得眼花撩亂，又不可簡單得空洞膚淺，層次感要拿捏到位，在雕工上需要小心謹慎，因此常見有套一層的玻璃鼻煙壺，如這種套兩層玻璃的鼻煙壺則較為少見，以藍、白、黑玻璃的組合則更為罕有。另一件相同的顏色組合套玻璃鼻煙壺，請參見莫士撝, Victor Graham 及曾嘉寶著，《A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles: The Mary and George Bloch Collection》，第5冊，第三部份，頁680-681，編號1003，後拍賣於香港邦瀚斯，瑪莉與莊智博鼻煙壺珍藏:第五部份，2012年5月27日，拍品編號7，兩者皆在頸上飾以蕉葉紋，如出一轍。作者在文章中比較該壺及本壺，指是唯一見到的顏色組合相同例子，連同另一件綠、白及藍色玻璃諸葛均鼻煙壺，三者屬於同一組頸飾蕉葉紋的鼻煙壺，出自同一作坊，而已，從Barron珍藏中另一件十分相似的套雙層玻璃鼻煙壺的題款中得知，是作清乾隆帝內府之禮，可見這一組鼻煙壺或可斷代為乾隆晚期。
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