Reflected Glory in a Bottle

CHINESE SNUFF BOTTLE PORTRAITS A SUPPLEMENT Emily Byrne Curtis Originally published in the autumn 1985 edition of the ICSBS journal One goal in a study of a highly specialized field, such as Chinese portrait snuff bottles, is to include all known examples. Lurking in the back of the author's mind, however, is a nagging suspicion that he or she has missed something and that another definitive example will turn up before the monograph is off the press. Confronted with the example that has turned up, the author can perhaps remain unruffled by simply pretending that the offending ex- ample does not exist or can ac- knowledge it and, by adding it to all the subsequent 'discoveries,' publish a supplement to the orig- inal work. Since the publication of Reflected Glory in a Bottle: Chinese Snuff Bottle Portraits (New York: Soho Bodhi 1980), a half-dozen pre- viously unrecorded examples have come to light, the first of which was the handsome one by Ma Shaoxuan (Ma Shao-hsuan) in the Aronson collection (fig. 1). At first the in- scription on the reverse caused some confusion when one of the characters zuo Ow) was thought to refer to the military Leader Zuo Zongtang (Tso Tsung-t'ang). How- ever, as it has been painted out, these snuff bottles invariably showed personalities contemporary to the period of interior-painted portrait bottles.' Zuo Zongtang died in 1885 well before this develop- ment. Furthermore, a Russian traveler, Pavel Piassetsky, made a sketch of Zuo which was repro- duced in Russian Trawlers in Mongolia and China; 11(1884). 1 A comparison between this sketch and the portrait on the bottle shows no resemblance, and when one adds a comparison of the bottle with two other paintings of Zuo by Chinese artists, one is safe in con- Fig. 1. interior painted portrait, possibly the Prince of Zhuang. Aronson collection fin ii im• cm. <1141V114FG. TIMPUIV Fig. Z. Photograph of His Highness the Prince of Zhuang. (Photo from Par F.gastern Review) eluding that the portrait on the Bottle depicts some other per- sonage. A more likely candidate is a member of one of the eight princely families, the Prince of Zhuang (Chuang) (fig. 2), The next three portrait bottles came from a most distinguished Chinese collection, that of the late Dr. N. C. Shen) A professor of psy-chology at Yanjing (Yenching) Uni- versity in Beijing (Peking), Dr, Shen along with an associate, Dr. Louis E. Wolferz collected only interior- painted snuff bottles.' Identification of the general on a pair of bottles (fig, 3) presented no problems since Dr, Shen left a statement in his notes that it was Jiang Chaozong (Chiang Chao-tsung). Dr. Shen further commented that this pair of bottles was in a box bearing the general's own inscription You- cheng (Yu-ch'eng)'s Treasure,' General Jiang's career spanned three decades,' a considerable achievement during this turbulent period in China's history. The bot- tles portray him in two different ways. On one bottle, he is depicted as a man of the modern world dressed in a Western style uniforms on the other General Jiang wears the typical winter robe of old China. Referring once again to Dr. Shen's notes, we learn that Jiang Chaozong was seventy-three years old in 1931. In 1936 General Jiang wrote the introduction for Gene Lamb's A Tabloid of Chinese History (Tientsin: Peiyang Press, Ltd., 1936). His calligraphy is reproduced together with a lovely photograph (fig. 4) of Jiang as the traditional elderly Chinese scholar. Dr. Shen ended his collecting with this pair of snuff bottles, explaining, 'My collection ends at bottle no. 64. This has long been my aim. in the 131