Meriem Collection Sale One / 658

The Meriem Collection. Lot 658

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Of rounded rectangular form with flat lip and recessed oval foot, one main side carved
in low relief with an orchid plant bearing two blossoms, the reverse carved in relief with
a six-character inscription in running script, followed by a relief seal, coral-colored glass
stopper with green glass finial and collar
6 cm. high

P R O V E N A N C E :
Albert M. Pyke.
Hugh Moss Ltd.
Elisabeth and Ladislas Kardos.
Potter’s Gallery, Vancouver.

The flawless crystal of this elegant bottle is used with the subtlety and restraint that often
characterizes work in this material. For a further discussion on the development of the use of
crystal in the manufacture of snuff bottles, see the footnote to lot 615.

Fujian province along the southern coast of China was famous for its crystal, and two of its cities,
Zhangzhou and Zhangbu, produced large quantities of crystal carvings as early as the beginning of
the eighteenth century. Given the abundance of the natural material, it would have been natural
for the local artisans to rise to the challenge of carving the crystal. It may be that a school of crystal
snuff bottle carvers developed there, but the material would also have been carved elsewhere, such
as the Palace workshops, or at Suzhou, and probably other hardstone-carving centers as well.

The orchid symbolizes the integrity of the gentleman-scholar, based on the poetry of the Qu Yuan
(4th-3rd century BC). During the Yuan dynasty, it was often depicted as an uprooted plant in
paintings and works of art as a subtle, silent accusation aimed at the barbarian Mongol conquerors.
Here, however, the plant is shown rooted in the soil, depicted with graceful economy by two
simple shapes, each with long leaves swaying in the wind.

The inscription is divided into two and reads: Xiang sheng (“fragrant blossoming”) and Suxin
huachu (“a place that allows one speak their mind without inhibition”). The seal reads Yi Shi (“One

The Meriem Collection. Lot 658

Hugh Moss |