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photographer E-Yaji.
Snuff Bottles from the Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part I  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 May 2010: Lot 92 

Lot 92

   

Lot 92
Treasury 7, no. 1471  
HK$240,000

Noble Occupations

Wood (lign aloes, chenxiangmu) and silver; with a convex lip and protruding concave foot surrounded by a flat footrim; carved with a continuous rocky landscape scene with pines and other trees, bamboo and ferns, in which, on one main side, a scholar stands with his walking staff gazing at a farmer with his water buffalo, with a woodcutter passing by a man fishing on the shore of a stream on the other main side, with formalized clouds around the shoulders, the lip encased in silver
1740–1850
Height: 7.04 cm. (including original stopper)
Mouth/lip: 0.69/1.99 cm
Stopper: wood (lign aloes, chenxiangmu), carved as a formalized chrysanthemum flower, with integral finial and collar; original

Lot 92 Provenance:
Sotheby’s, London, 7 June 1990, lot 386

Published:
Treasury 7, no. 1471  

Lot 92 Commentary:
For the highly valued wood, chenxiangmu, see Treasury 7, no. 1470. This example has a faint but still discernible aroma of honey. It is also made in sections, as was Treasury 7, no. 1470, but only in so far as the neck is a separate piece. The main body is a single piece of wood.

This is one of the most spectacular examples in this rare wood for the snuff-bottle world. Among all aloes wood snuff bottles, this is the most fluently and finely carved. In the broader field of scholarly objects in the material, it is also among the best, with unusually well carved and complex detail. It may represent a high-level response to an imperial order, or, as is always possible given the system at the palace workshops of drawing artists from anywhere in the empire, a response by a southern carver seconded from his local workshop to the palace workshops. The original matching stopper is of an imperial type.

Apart from the similar stoppers, another feature links this to Treasury 7, no. 1470: they share the stylistic quirk of depicting the foliage of several trees in a very similar fashion. The pine with standard ranks of circular foliage with radiating lines is readily recognizable, but two other trees with radiating lines carved on foliage of pendant, folding-fan-shape, are difficult to identify. Exactly the same detailing is used for the foliage of a clump of what appear to be fern-like plants behind the water-buffalo, whereas on Treasury 7, no. 1470, another tree has the same fan-shaped foliage, but it is pointing upwards, which looks more pine-like.

For another superb bottle in this type of wood, see Hui and Sin 1994, no. 205 (once in the Claar and Reif collections). There the wood is described as yingmu (eagle wood), which is another term for the same wood, ‘eagle’ being the English corruption of agaru or a similar South Asian term for agalloch, and ying being the Chinese translation for the bird ‘eagle’. There is another in Geng Baochang and Zhao Binghua1992, no. 428.

 

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