Meriem Collection Sale One / 609

The Meriem Collection. Lot 609

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Of rounded-rectangular form with recessed foot surrounded by
a footrim, finely painted with a continuous scene of birds and
two prunus trees growing amidst peonies and grassy mounds,
each tree trunk shown on a different side with the blossoming
branches extending to both sides, with three swallows in flight
on one side and inscribed with the signature Zhou Leyuan and
two seals, Leyuan and Shanyin Zhou shi (Mr. Zhou of Shanyin),
the reverse with a pair of birds with crested heads and inscribed
in draft script with an eighteen-character inscription reading
“[Following the] idea of Xinluo, written at the Studio of Lotusroot
Fragrance at the Capital during the Zhongyang festival (the
Ninth day of the Ninth lunar month) in the cyclical year
Renchen by Zhou Leyuan,” and two seals, Fang gu (Copying the
ancient) and Yin (seal), tourmaline stopper with vinyl collar
6.2 cm. high

P R O V E N A N C E :
Hugh Moss Ltd.

Zhou Leyuan, the founder of the popular Beijing school of painting, was
active between 1879 and 1893. Every artist of the first phase of the
school owed a considerable debt to Zhou, and most began their careers
by copying his style and signing his name; some even appear to have
devoted most of their careers to producing copies of his work. This
spectacular example comes from early in Zhou’s career when he was
first becoming justly famous and creating masterpieces that set new
technical and artistic standards.

Paired birds on flowering branches also appear in different combinations
on bottles painted by Zhou between 1884 and 1892. This is one of the
more exceptional versions of the theme where the subtle, subdued
colors of the birds’ wings and tails are offset by their bright peachcolored
breasts and red beaks. The pair of orioles, coupled with their
blossoming prunus tree, represent marital bliss, while the peonies
symbolize love and affection as well as represent good luck and spring
in the cycle of the four seasons. The three swallows, amidst further
blossoming prunus and peonies bear further auspicious meaning, as the
Chinese word for swallow (yan) is a homonym of the word for “quiet”
or “peaceful”.

This is one of the few bottles which gives Zhou Leyuan’s place of origin:
Shanyin in Shanxi province. The inscription attributes the painting to
Xinluo (Shanren), also known as Hua Yan, the eighteenth- century
eccentric painter from Yangzhou, although the style and execution is
purely in the classic mature style of Zhou.

See the catalogue, Hugh M. Moss Limited, An Exhibition of Chinese
Snuff Bottles, June 1970, p. 86, no. 360, for another inside-painted
crystal bottle by Zhou. One side is painted with swallows flying amongst
the branches of a willow tree while the reverse is painted with a
landscape in the style of Wang Hui. This latter example is dated to 1891.

For full details of Zhou Leyuan and dozens of examples, see Moss,
Graham, Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, Vol. 4, Inside-


The Meriem Collection. Lot 609

Hugh Moss |