Lot 84 Lot 84 Lot 84 Lot 84 Lot 84 Lot 84 Lot 85

photographer E-Yaji.
Snuff Bottles from the Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part II  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 23 November 2010: Lot 84 

Lot 84


Lot 84
Treasury 5, no. 941

Today’s Crizzled Drizzle

Translucent milky white, and transparent sapphire-blue glass, the latter extensively crizzled on the inside of the bottle; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; carved as a single overlay with mask-and-ring handles on the narrow sides, the foot inscribed in relief cursive script, Jinyu ting (‘Pavilion of Today’s Rain’)
Suzhou or Yangzhou, 1790–1820
Height: 5.4 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.60/1.42 cm
Stopper: glass; vinyl

Lot 84 Provenance:   
Private Collection
Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 28 October 1992, lot 291

Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 93
Treasury 5, no. 941

Hong Kong Museum of Art, March-June 1994
National Museum, Singapore, November 1994-February 1995

Lot 84 Commentary
The name of the Jinyu Ting is based on a poem by Du Fu, the renowned Tang poet. In it, he laments that in the past many friends still visited him when it rained, in spite of the inconvenience; but that today (i.e., when he composed this particular poem) when it rained and he was sick, nobody came. From this source, two terms evolved: jiuyu (literally, ‘past rain’), signifying ‘old friends’; and jinyu (‘today's’ or ‘present rain’), meaning ‘new friends’. The name means, therefore, a pavilion where new friends congregate.

Jinyu ji (Today's-rain collection) is the title of a compilation of Suzhou poets put together by Gu Yuan 顧沅 (1799–1851), who had the largest collection of painting, books, and calligraphy in the southeast until it was scattered as a result of the Taiping Rebellion. Gu Yuan was not the only person to use jinyu for the title of a compendium of the works of ‘new friends’. However, his distinction as a book collector is shared by one other person who may have owned another 'Jinyu pavilion' bottle (Treasury 5, no. 1011), Yu Changsui (1829–1883). This tempts us to speculate that—to state the conclusion before the evidence—the present bottle was made in Suzhou for Gu Yuan and that Treasury 5, no. 1011, plus two others of a similar style that we associate with Yangzhou, were made in Yangzhou for Yu Changsui. The persistence of the name could be explained by postulating that Yu Changsui was able to recover some of the books from Gu’s collection and subsequently honoured Gu by building a Jinyu pavilion in his garden (the Yangzhi yuan, Garden for Cultivating the Will) near Yangzhou, to which he retired in the Tongzhi reign. Whether Gu Yuan had a pavilion by this name in Suzhou or not is unknown, but it is certainly plausible that he would have a gathering place or editing studio named for the poetry collection he compiled. On the Yangzhou side, it must be admitted that a perusal of various accounts of the garden, letters to Yu Changsui, and his epitaph has failed to produce any mention of the Jinyu ting. However, the garden was large and its buildings many, so the absence of any mention is not conclusive evidence that the pavilion did not exist.

In the absence of the pavilion name, we would probably associate this bottle with the court. Features such as the crizzled glass, form, very neatly delineated footrim, and mask-and-ring handles would all allow a tentative attribution to the imperial glassworks and the palace jade-carving workshops. Prompting caution regarding this assumption, however, is a strange feature of the taotie-head handles, for although they are of typically courtly style, the faces are unusual. The eyes differ from the typical, stylized bulging spheres of the standard version, the nose is smaller, and instead of sitting directly on the ring, without the jaw shown, the mask features an upper lip connecting to the ring. Convincing evidence that this is part of the group we have been calling the Li Junting school, however, is provided by another example (Sotheby’s, New York, 31 May 1994, lot 665) that is of a similar colour combination, also crizzled and with typical Li school low-relief carving. It also displays a raised seal and the crane-and-tally design so popular with the school, as well as Li-style mask-and-ring handles. The crizzling could be the result of a batch of faulty glass at any centre, but it could equally be due to the use of old glass, raw material from an earlier period or recycled imported Western glass.


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Hugh Moss |