Meriem Collection Sale One / 603

The Meriem Collection. Lot 603

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Carved in the form of a mythical tortoise (bixi) with one asymmetrically flattened side
retaining the russet skin and carved with a honeycomb-patterned carapace bordered by
a band of key fret, and the top of the head with pronged horns, and ears, the front of
the head with grimacing mouth framed by whiskers, the bent, hair-tufted legs and the
abdomen on the underside all carved from the even-toned white stone, garnet stopper
6.4 cm. high

P R O V E N A N C E :
Georgia Roode.
Ashkenazie & Co., San Francisco.

The bixi is a mythical beast with the head of a dragon, the tail of a qilin, the paws of a Buddhist
lion and the body of a tortoise. The domed carapace of the creature was believed to represent
the vault of the heavens while its flat lower shell represented the earth; the living flesh within
represented humankind. Not only was this mythical creature one of the earliest spiritual symbols
in China, it was also associated with the concept of longevity - it appeared to live indefinitely and
seemingly went without food, air or water.

This bottle belongs to a group of animal-form nephrite bottles, the bixi being among the most
popular of them, perhaps as a result of its powerful symbolism. Other examples include one
illustrated by Moss, Graham, Tsang, The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle. The J & J Collection, no. 5;
one in the Bloch Collection, Moss, Graham, Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, Vol. 1,
Jade, no. 51; another in B. Stevens, The Collector’s Book of Snuff Bottles, no. 359; and one in
R. Kleiner, Chinese Snuff Bottles. The White Wings Collection, p. 47, no. 24. The present example
differs slightly from the more common form, with unusual use of the russet skin for the carapace.
The style of carving also sets it slightly apart, suggesting it may perhaps be an earlier prototype.

The Meriem Collection. Lot 603

Hugh Moss |