Meriem Collection Sale One / 669

The Meriem Collection. Lot 669

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Of compressed ovoid form with flat lip and recessed foot
surrounded by a footrim, each narrow side carved in relief with
a gracefully writhing chi dragon with trifurcated tail grasping a
stem of lingzhi in its jaws, the longer of the two stems
continuing down to just above the oval footrim, the russet
coloring rising from the foot primarily on one side as well as on
one of the narrow sides where it highlights the dragon,
tourmaline stopper with gilt-metal collar
5.6 cm. high

P R O V E N A N C E :
Hugh Moss Ltd.
Paula Hallett.
Lionel Copley.
Robert Hall, London.
L I T E R A T U R E :
Robert Hall, Chinese Snuff Bottles VI, no. 106.

The material favored by the Master of the Rocks school was referred to
by Zhao Zhiqian in the late Qing period as “yellow steamed-chestnut”
and to modern collectors as “han” jade. The main source of nephrite for
the Chinese was the Kunlun Mountains which form the boundary
between Xinjiang province and Tibet. Until the mining of raw material
took flight in the late sixteenth century, jade merchants relied on
pebbles carried by the two main rivers originating in the Kunlun
Mountains and flowing on either side of Khotan. For centuries, the
Chinese relied on this traditional method of gathering raw material, and
despite the advent of mining in the late sixteenth century, it was not
until the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century that Chinese jade
connoisseurs overcame their prejudice against mined material. However,
the long history of reverence for jade pebbles has meant that the
Chinese have continued to use the weathered and discolored skin of
pebbles and boulders in their carvings. This even led to the Qianlong
Emperor issuing instructions to artificially stain jade in order to give
pure material the impression of natural surface staining.

This bottle is carved from pebble material and the combination
of the yellowish-green color contrasting with the dark-brown
skin allows for the impression of a misty landscape setting for the
mythical chi dragons. The carving of the dragons is very
similar to an example in the Bloch collection, illustrated by
Moss, Graham, Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff
Bottles, Vol. I, Jade, no. 142, and another illustrated in Moss, Graham,
Tsang, The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottles. The J & J Collection, no.
46. Like the Bloch bottle, the present example has an unusually wide mouth.

There seems to have been one workshop specializing in carvings
from this distinctive material, known as the Master of the Rocks School. Its main
output was of bottles in this material carved with landscape designs, but many
other subjects are recorded, including a few with chi dragon designs which
may have been partly produced for the Court. The quality of carving and
the use of material of the present bottle are typical of this school.

The Meriem Collection. Lot 669

Hugh Moss |