**A VERY RARE AND SUPERBLY CARVED HORNBILL SNUFF BOTTLE
Of flattened ovoid form with a flat lip and flat oval foot, very
finely carved in relief on one side with an official pointing
towards the sun as he is presented with a bronze ritual vessel
(jue) by a kneeling attendant, while a female attendant standing
behind him holds a feather fan, the other main side carved with
what appears to be the same official being presented by a
bowing attendant with his official’s hat to replace the cloth cap
he is wearing with his informal robes, with a female attendant
behind him holding a simple fan, the narrow sides carved
through the red sheath with chi dragons holding lingzhi sprigs
in their mouths, jadeite stopper with gilt-metal collar
6.2 cm. high
P R O V E N A N C E :
Hugh Moss Ltd.
E X H I B I T E D :
Canadian Craft Museum, Vancouver, 1992.
L I T E R A T U R E :
Canadian Craft Museum Brochure, 1992.
Known only by his hao or sobriquet, Baishi was one of the finest carvers
in any organic material used in the making of snuff bottles. He also
carved in amber. His works are always superbly carved and meticulously
detailed and of a distinctive, scholarly style, often including inscriptions
in archaic script. The style is unmistakable, and although unsigned, the
carving on this bottle is unquestionably by Baishi. This is made even
more obvious by the similar subject of the scholar being offered the jue,
carved in identical style, to one formerly in the J & J Collection (Moss,
Graham, Tsang, The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle. The J & J Collection,
no. 283, and sold in these rooms, 22 March 2007, lot 9), but combined
there with an inscription, and date corresponding to 1836. Other
examples include the celebrated bottle form the Edmund F. Dwyer
Collection, illustrated by L.S. Perry, Chinese Snuff Bottles. The
Adventures and Studies of a Collector, p. 130, no. 125, and by B.
Stevens, The Collector’s Book of Snuff Bottles, nos. 736 and 737, and
now in the collection of Charles V. Swain (dated 1843); a bottle from the
Ko Collection illustrated by R. Kleiner, Chinese Snuff Bottles from the
Collection of Mary and George Bloch, no. 193; a bottle dated to 1836
from the collection of Edgar Wise, illustrated by B. Stevens, The
Collector’s Book of Snuff Bottles, no. 738; the bottle dated to 1843
illustrated by J. Ford, Chinese Snuff Bottles. The Edward Choate O’Dell
Collection, no. 76; one illustrated by R. Kleiner, Chinese Snuff Bottles.
The White Wings Collection, p. 227, no. 159; and two further examples
illustrated in Chinese Snuff Bottles No. 5, pp. 93 and 94, the latter of
which is in the Art Institute of Chicago.
The subject matter here, of a dignitary wearing an official hat and
pointing towards the sun as he is being offered a precious bronze tripod
wine vessel (jue), symbolizes a wish for promotion to the highest rank,
while the similar scene on the other main side suggests that the
successful scholar is being presented with his official hat - although it is
obviously drawn from a more ancient time than the Qing dynasty, since
the style of the hat changed in the Qing. Combined they celebrate both
the elevation to the rank of official for the successful scholar, and the
aspiration to climb to the highest levels of the civil service.