Meriem Collection Sale One / 621

The Meriem Collection. Lot 621

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Of ovoid form with flat lip and narrow, recessed oval foot
surrounded by a footrim, one side carved in low relief with Mi
Fu followed by an attendant holding a fan as they cross a bridge
toward a pierced ornamental rock in the foreground, the reverse
with a six-character inscription above a pine branch growing
from a rock face above a mountain stream, all framed by the
irregular edges of plain rock face issuing from the narrow sides
which are carved with lion-mask-and-ring handles, tourmaline
stopper with gold collar
6 cm. high

P R O V E N A N C E :
Joseph Baruch Silver.
Hugh Moss Ltd.

The town of Suzhou, famous for its gardens and canals, was also one of
the main cultural centers in China, attracting many painters, calligraphers,
poets, musicians and other talented individuals. Their pursuits and
interests form the main subject matter of the group of acclaimed snuff
bottles intricately carved from agate and jade in a style unique to the
workshop associated with Zhiting, a famous jade carver from the area.

Zhiting was one of the few jade carvers who signed his wares with the
intention of establishing artistic identity. The first of these artists to do so
was Lu Zigang, who probably inspired Zhiting, although the former
worked two centuries earlier. Extant signed works by Zhiting are all small,
being either pendants or snuff bottles, and a similar style of carving links
the jade and quartz pendants to the snuff bottles. The name “Zhiting
School” has been applied to this particular group of carvings from Suzhou.

James Watt had originally attributed Zhiting to the Kangxi period based
on the styles of the plaques and pendants. However, the existence of a
fairly large number of snuff bottles which appear to be stylistically later,
suggests that if he was active at all during the Kangxi reign, he worked
into the Qianlong period, and that the school or workshop style he
inspired continued into the second half of the nineteenth century.

The present example is carved in the low-relief style associated with earlier
Qing jade carvings from Suzhou, and may be among Zhiting’s earlier
works, although evident here are many features of the later, more fully
developed, high relief carving of the school, such as the typical cloud
motif, the rockwork and the relief inscription. For a discussion on the
School of Zhiting, see Moss, Graham, Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff
Bottles, Vol. 2, Quartz, no. 366.

Hugh Moss informed Mary Margaret Young of the existence of nearly
twenty known snuff bottles signed by Zhiting. Another bottle signed by
Zhiting is in the Bloch Collection, the Bloch “Deer and Pine” nephrite
snuff bottle (Moss, Graham, Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles,
Vol. 1, Jade, no. 122), one carved with a seated figure and a deer,
inscribed in clerical script in relief and sold in these rooms, 3 June 1993,
lot 328, and a third signed example of dark grey and greyish-white
nephrite carved with a dragon in relief is in the Snowy Peaks Collection,
and illustrated by Robert Hall, Chinese Snuff Bottles XI, The Snowy Peaks
Collection, no. 81.

It is interesting to note the unusual use of the mask-and-ring handles on a
Suzhou jade carving not made for the Court. These handles were a
typically Courtly feature and standard on northern snuff bottles, but were
less frequently used on southern products for a non-Imperial market.
Their use suggests the possibility that although the bottle was carved in
Suzhou, it was intended for a Northern audience.

The six-character inscription reads, Nangong baishi, Zhi Zhai which can be
translated as “Nan Gong worshipping a stone, Orchid Studio”. Nan Gong
was the sobriquet for the Northern Song artist and minister Mi Fu (1051-
1107). The story goes that he was so overawed by one particular strange
stone, that he donned his official robes, took his hu in his hands, and
bowed respectfully to it, addressing it as “Elder Brother”.

The Meriem Collection. Lot 621

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