Meriem Collection Sale One / 616

The Meriem Collection. Lot 616

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Of compressed spherical form with flat lip and very slightly
concave oval foot, one side finely painted with a detailed view
of the port of Guangzhou, with numerous ships in the water
surrounding an island fort and with the city and distant
mountains in the background, the reverse inscribed in draft
script with the poem Yong Huashan (“Ode to Huashan”) by the
Northern Song poet and prime minister Kou Zhun, and an
illegible one-character signature followed by the character xie
(written by) and three illegible seals, quartz stopper with giltmetal
6.4 cm. high

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

See Moss, Graham, Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, Vol. 4,
Inside-Painted, pp. 9-19 for a reassessment of the “Early School” of
inside-painting. The authors suggest that the beginnings of insidepainted
production took place in Beijing in the north, rather than
Guangzhou (Canton) in the south, and that a group of inside-painted
bottles with Manchu script are the earliest of the school. Inside-painting
of snuff bottles was then developed by Yiru Jushi and a school of
followers, and then spread to the south where the Lingnan School in
Guangdong was established by Gan Xuanwen and a circle of friends,
including Chen Quan. Lingnan was an early name for the general area
of Guangdong province.

The earliest inside-painted work by Gan is dated to the fourth month of
1815, see M. Hughes, The Blair Bequest. Chinese Snuff Bottles from the
Princeton University Art Museum, p. 238, no. 333, and the latestrecorded
of his works is from 1823. There are in addition a number of
bottles by Gan, or attributed to him, which are undated.

Gan Xuanwen was a literatus and painter who took up the art of
painting inside snuff bottles, and his style is, quite understandably, taken
from the literati tradition of painting. His status as a scholar-painter
might have been largely forgotten if not for his snuff bottles and a single
surviving handscroll in the collection of the Chinese University of Hong
Kong. See H. Moss, “The Lingnan School of Snuff Bottle Interior Painters
- Part I”, JICSBS, Spring 1991, pp. 7-15, in which the author deduces
from a damaged date on the inscription that it must have been painted
between 1807 and 1814. The painting bears several colophones by
other Lingnan scholars, including one by Chen Quan, and includes a
signature that reads “Gan Xuanwen of Gugang in Lingnan”.
The bottle is inscribed with the poem Yong Huashan (“Ode to
Huashan”) by Northern Song poet and prime minister Kou Zhun, who
allegedly, at age seven, was so moved by the sight of the mountainous
landscape at Huashan that he composed the poem on the spot.

The poem may be translated as:

“With only the sky above and equal to no other mountain
The red sun is nearby as I lift my head
And white clouds float below as I look back.”

Most of the seals on Gan Xuanwen school bottles are illegible and were
obviously meant as visual emphasis and a nod to the tradition of literati
painting rather than to be read.

The scene on this bottle is identical to one attributed to Gan’s hand in
the Bloch Collection (see Moss, Graham, Tsang, op. cit., no. 449),
depicting either the Dutch or French Folly Forts which stand between
Guangzhou and Whampoa Island on the Pearl River, close to
Guangzhou. The European trading warehouses (hongs)are also shown.

For other scenes of the port, see Emily Byrne Curtis, “Chinese Snuff
Bottles in the China Trade”, Arts of Asia, March-April, 1980, p. 91 and
Marcus B. Huish, Chinese Snuff Bottles of Stone, Porcelain and Glass, p.
28, pl. 7.

The Meriem Collection. Lot 616

Hugh Moss |