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    Sale 2026

    Important Chinese Snuff Bottles From The J&J Collection, Part V

    17 September 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 59

    **AN UNUSUAL SILVER-INLAID BRONZE SNUFF BOTTLE

    ZHUTAI, DATED XIAOCHUN YUE (TENTH MONTH) OF THE YIWEI YEAR, PROBABLY CORRESPONDING TO 1835 (POSSIBLY 1775 OR 1895)

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    **AN UNUSUAL SILVER-INLAID BRONZE SNUFF BOTTLE
    ZHUTAI, DATED XIAOCHUN YUE (TENTH MONTH) OF THE YIWEI YEAR, PROBABLY CORRESPONDING TO 1835 (POSSIBLY 1775 OR 1895)
    Of flattened form with flat lip and recessed, flat, elongated oval foot surrounded by a footrim, the narrow sides with raised, convex, rounded-rectangular panels, decorated with silver-wire inlay on one main side with a scholar seated at a natural rock table in a garden beneath a tree and a natural rock formation, gazing at a sheet of paper and a potted flower in front of him, the scene enclosed in a single-line frame, the other main side with a poetic couplet in regular script, preceded by the date, Yiwei xiaochunyue ('Little spring month of the yiwei year'), and followed by the signature, Baiyun waishi kan ('Critiqued by Unofficial Historian White Clouds'), also within a rectangular, single-line frame, each narrow side with a similar design of lingzhi and bamboo, also within a single-line frame, and the neck with a design of continuous leiwen, the foot stamped with the maker's seal Zhutai, agate stopper with silver collar
    2 in. (5.32 cm.) high


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    The poem refers to the mystical realm, which soon became associated with both snuff and the snuff bottle, the former because of the effect the narcotic nicotine has on the intellect, allowing one to sense other dimensions of consciousness, however briefly, and the latter because of the long-held belief that the interior of certain containers, gourds in particular, could become alternative realms of infinite, or rather limitless size. It may be translated as:

    Its flavor for divine immortals beyond this world
    Will last long many months and days in this bottle.

    The name following it is the hao or sobriquet of the artist Yun Shouping (1633-1690), a famous and immensely influential early-Qing artist who often inspired snuff-bottle makers. The use of the character kan after the signature leaves open the possible interpretation that the text and signature have been borrowed from a published version. Kan can also mean 'to engrave' or 'engraved', making further reference to the Chinese publishing process, which involves the engraving of wood blocks or stone from which rubbings can be taken to produce multiple copies. The silver-wire process involves incising lines into the surface of the metal to accommodate the silver wire, which is then beaten into place before the surface is polished, but in this case we may assume that there is no intention to pretend that Yun Shouping engraved the bottle, particularly given the real identity of the maker on the foot.

    The scholar seated at the rock table seeks inspiration by gazing at the flower in a pot nearby, his blank paper waiting him on the surface of the table, while the poem connects the user to the mystic realm, and the side panels provide symbols of longevity and the qualities of a gentleman. The leiwen design around the neck, being continuous, suggests the continuity of the family line and, therefore, male progeny.

    In the date, xiaochun is a short-form for xiaoyangchun, an alternative name for the tenth month of the year.

    Special Notice

    Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.