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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part III  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 25 May 2011: Lot 122 

Lot 122


Lot 122
Treasury 5, no. 1012

An inscribed three-colour glass overlay ‘water buffaloes’ snuff bottle

(‘Idle Days’)

Opaque cinnabar-red, transparent emerald-green and translucent caramel- beige glass; with a flat lip and recessed, convex foot surrounded by a protruding, rounded footrim; carved as a double overlay with a continuous lake scene with floating lotus leaves with, on one main side, two figures in boats beneath the moon, with a grassy, rocky foreshore, inscribed in an oval cartouche in relief draft script, Jinyu ting (‘Pavilion of Today’s Rain’), and on the other with two herdboys riding their water buffaloes beneath two flying bats and the sun
Probably Yangzhou, 1861-1883
Height: 5.8 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.59/1.31 cm
Stopper: glass; glass finial; glass collar

Lot 122 Provenance:
Robert Hall (1987)

Hall 1987, no. 43
Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 134
Treasury 5, no. 1012

Robert Hall Ltd., London, October 1987
Hong Kong Museum of Art, March-June 1994
National Museum, Singapore, November 1994- February 1995

Lot 122 Commentary
Our dating of this bottle is based on our belief that it was made in Yangzhou and belonged to Yu Changsui, an official who retired to Yangzhou in 1861 and died in 1883. He is introduced in Moss and Sargent 2011, although the Jinyu ting is not mentioned there. Treasury 5, no. 1011, is inscribed with ‘Jinyu ting’ on one side and ‘Yu shi zhencang’ (Yu Collection) on the other, supporting our attribution of the bottle to Yu Changsui. Through an allusion to a poem by Du Fu, ‘Today’s Rain’ refers to new friends, and it figures in the title of several anthologies of poems by friends in a given locality—including a collection put together by a bibliophile named Gu Yuan (1799 – 1851), whose library (more likely, parts of it) may have come into the possession of Yu Changsui after it was scattered in the turmoil of the Taiping Rebellion. Yu Changsui was himself an avid book collector. We speculate that Gu Yuan’s Jinyu Anthology could have inspired Yu to name some building in his estate after it, hence the ‘Today’s Rain pavilion’ on these snuff bottles. This scenario is supported by the fact that his brother, Yu Changjin, was also a book collector and is known to have apparently adopted the name of an earlier bibliophile’s library for his library. (Of course, Yu Changjin could also be the patron of the Jinyu ting snuff bottles, or perhaps they were co-patrons; after all, some books carry seals belonging to both brothers.)

The caramel-coloured ground with cinnabar-red and green overlay forms one of the more common combinations for the group (see nos. 1013 and 1014 in Treasury 5).

The moon in the overlay has suffered a small chip, and although this could easily be repaired by carving away the rest of the moon, the Blochs decided against it, thus demonstrating an admirably enlightened approach to damage on masterpieces. Since the moon was an integral part of the original concept, and since great bottles are able to carry such scars with considerable dignity, it was decided to leave it.


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Hugh Moss |