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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 22 

Lot 22

Lot 22
Treasury7, no. 1482 (‘Beneath the Peak’)

Bamboo, bamboo veneer, and green pigment; with a flat lip and protruding, deeply concave foot surrounded by a narrow flat footrim; the bottle made from a section of cortex with two inset panels of bamboo veneer, one on each main side, one engraved with a scene of two houses among the trees with a towering peak behind, the other with a ten-character couplet in seal script, the panels enhanced with green pigment
Attributable to Xinru (Wenyuan?), 1830–1920
Height: 6.25 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.59/0.95 cm
Stopper: bamboo, original

Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd (1998)

Treasury 7, no. 1482

In the type of material of the basic bottle and particularly in the type of stopper with its integral cork and spoon, there is an obvious similarity between this and Sale 5, lot 130. Either both come from the same workshop, or both represent a standard late-Qing type produced in more than one workshop. In this case, instead of making the entire bottle from an inter-nodal segment close to the ground, the carver has made the main body from a section of cortex cut from the thick culm of a large specimen of bamboo. The section was carved to leave two large oval holes on each main side (greatly facilitating hollowing, of course, since it could be done through the wide openings of each main side), which were subsequently filled by inserting flat panels of bamboo veneer stripped from the inner cortex wall. That was probably the end of the involvement by the craftsman who made the basic form. Subsequently, the engraving and inscription were added, probably by a scholar-artist, if the quality and style of both the seal script and the iron-brush ‘drawing’ are anything to go by. He has not, in this instance, signed his name, but the engraving is done with complete confidence by a well-practised hand and is typically literati in style; it is unlikely to have come from the same workshop as the bottle itself.

Other snuff bottles are recorded that appear to be by the same hand, often combining seal script with idealized landscape scenes and of identical construction, some with similar matching stoppers (see, for instance, Sotheby’s, Billingshurst, 25 June 1991, lot 199; Lawrence 1995, no. 56; and Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 269). Two of these may help us to identify the literatus involved. The Brody bottle in Lawrence (now in the Marakovic collection) is signed Wenyuan zuo  ('Made by Wenyuan'; the three characters were formerly misread as 'Wen Ruanxin'), while the J & J bottle is signed with the name Xinru. Neither name is identifiable with anyone who might have engraved this bottle, nor do we know whether they belonged to one person or two. We dated the J & J bottle to 1800–1900, but given the association with Sale 5, lot 130 and a growing understanding of the dating of the group of late-Qing bottles decorated by scholars, we would now date it a little later, along with this one. The marked difference in patination between this example and the J & J bottle is simply a question of subsequent treatment, and nothing, on the basis of only two examples, suggests one is any older than the other. The present example seems to have been somewhat cleaned, which could easily remove a good deal of any earlier patination.

The final stage in construction, of course, is for the engraving to be filled with green pigment to accentuate the lovely, well-modulated lines of the landscape drawing and to give the relief seal-script characters greater prominence. This could have taken place originally or at any time subsequently.

The couplet is the second in a regulated verse by the Song poet Chen Shidao (1053 -- 1102).

It reads

Privation my usual lot, I owe poems to everyone;
Dreariness overwhelming, this wine does no good.


This is not the Sotheby’s sale catalogue. This is a product of Hugh Moss for the purposes of this website. For the catalogue details please refer to Sotheby’s website or request a copy of a printed sale catalogue from Sotheby’s.


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