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photographer E-Yaji.

The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part III  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 25 May 2011: Lot 46 

Lot 46

Lot 46

Treasury 6, no. 1450 An inscribed Yixing stoneware ‘fisherman’ snuff bottle

(‘Little Mountain’)

White enamel and beige stoneware slip on purplish-brown stoneware; with a flat lip and a tiny, deep concave foot surrounded by a sloping funnel-shaped inner foot and a narrow flat footrim, each main side with a recessed, slightly convex quatrefoil panel; one decorated in pale-beige slip with a waterside landscape with a person seated on a rocky, foliated bank facing a foliated precipice stretching from top to bottom of the picture on the right, two trees growing from the precipice, the sun above and behind the fisherman with seven tiny specks around it probably representing birds in flight, the other main side with an engraved inscription in regular script filled with white enamel, ‘Judged [to be of fine quality] by Shaoshan in the renwu year’, the inner neck glazed with a further splash running into the otherwise uncovered interior
The Slip Master, Yixing, 1822
Height: 5.65 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.50/1.25 cm
Stopper: coral; glass collar

Lot 46 Provenance:
Sotheby’s London, 11 October 1974, lot 135
Hugh Moss
Arthur Gadsby, Hong Kong, 1978
Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd
J & J Collection Christie’s, New York, 30 March 2005, lot 78

Hong Kong 1977, p. 66, no. 133
JICSBS, June 1978, p. 45, no. 133
Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 255
Treasury 6, no. 1450

Hong Kong Museum of Art, October–November 1977
Christie’s New York, 1993
Empress Place Museum, Singapore, 1994
Museum für Kunsthandwerk, Frankfurt, 1996–1997
Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London, 1997
Naples Museum of Art, Florida, 2002
Portland Museum of Art, Oregon, 2002
National Museum of History, Taipei, 2002
International Asian Art Fair, Seventh Regiment Armory, New York, 2003
Poly Art Museum, Beijing, 2003

Lot 46 Commentary
Shaoshan was the hao, or adopted artistic name, of the famous late-Ming Yixing potter Shi Dabin, who worked before snuff bottles were even invented. By the time this bottle was made, Shi Dabin’s name might well have been taken as a mark of excellence, as implied by the inscription that suggests that he approved it. Shaoshan is a name that is elsewhere used on Qing Yixing wares, and probably with the same intention of invoking a past master to add lustre to a contemporaneous work of art. This was common enough practice in the production of Chinese arts and crafts.

The style here is typical of the Slip Master’s wares, with a simple rustic scene based upon the topography of the Jiangnan area in which Yixing is situated (in Jiangsu province). The fisherman is intended to be a scholar at leisure. The artist built up the rocks with his characteristic overlays of slip; they were probably trowelled on with a slightly flexible blade of some sort, in the same way as a palette knife is used in oil painting. The trees are probably painted on with a brush loaded with wetter slip or, for thicker areas, perhaps modelled first and stuck on. The Slip Master’s figures are often shown in a simple profile view with the head, its bun of hair at the back, separate from the body, suggesting that the slip is the hair and that the face and neck are left undefined in the ground colour. Above the scene is the standard tiny blob of slip for the sun and some small dabs almost certainly intended to be birds. Foliage, as always, consists of a mist of scattered blobs of slip of different sizes scattered around branches for trees and floating around rocks formations for other foliage. It is a simple but very effective series of shorthand methods of depicting a figure in landscape on a summer’s day.

The inscription was not added after the bottle was fired. The sharp-edged engraving of the characters denotes carving into the leather-hard paste before firing, making for a much easier job and neater line from the cutting tool. The filling with enamel proves that the characters were inscribed before the bottle was finished at the kilns. The inside of the neck is the only area where the maker added enamel inside, which is unusual for Yixing bottles, as they are mostly glazed inside. (More precisely, an enamel is used as a monochrome ‘glaze’). Perhaps in this case the maker thought it unnecessary to colour the interior, since the longish neck and narrow mouth rendered it invisible in any case; or perhaps the patron or the maker preferred the rougher interior of the stoneware paste for his snuff.

The foot is unusual for its straight external sides in combination with the inverted-funnel interior.

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