New York

New York - Christie’s is honored to present The Hildegard Schonfeld Collection of Fine Chinese Snuff Bottles on March 21 as part of Christie’s Spring Asian Art Week. This sale of 116 lots includes rare examples in glass, jade, agate and porcelain.

Born in Schweinfurt, Germany, Hildegard Schonfeld (1923-2010) came to the United States in 1936 on the famous Kinder Transport, a rescue effort, which brought German Jewish children to safety in England and America. In 1947 she wed Sidney and the family settled in New Jersey, where they were active philanthropists, devoting much attention to local causes and Jewish charities.  Hilde developed a passion for Asian art on her many trips to Japan with her husband. In 1973, on a fateful trip to San Francisco, they wandered into an antique shop where Hilde’s eyes were attracted to two small bottles and her new interest was piqued enough to attend a snuff bottle auction soon after. Thus began her collecting journey with her husband. 

Hilde dedicated much time to refining and educating her eye, befriending dealers and scholars and absorbing all the available material on the subject.  She kept impeccable records on each of her purchases, citing its provenance, related examples and including any later correspondence regarding a particular bottle. Her collection became so well-respected selections of her bottles appeared on the cover of the Journal of the International Snuff Bottle Society in 1996 and 1997. Following her passing, Hilde’s two children have decided to present her collection to the public, with the hope that each bottle would bring the same excitement to a new or a seasoned collector that it did to their mother.

This remarkable two-color snuff bottle is part of the rare group of early Imperial semi-precious stone bottles that can now be dated within the latter part of the 18th century.  Decorated with an archaistic design, the style of carving of this bottle can be linked to a well-known group of bottles attributed to the Palace Workshops of the late Qianlong period.  The use of dichromatic material is extremely rare and this bottle is one of three known.

The name “Zhiting School” has been applied to this particular celebrated group of jade and agate carvings from Suzhou.  The present example from the Zhiting School is carved in slightly higher relief than the low-relief style associated with earlier Qing jade carvings from Suzhou, and features a continuous scene of a grotto with a sage seated beside a brazier and a double gourd.

During the Qianlong period, a series of spectacular enameled porcelain snuff bottles was produced in very small quantities for the Court, setting the standard for Imperial production of porcelain snuff bottles into the Daoguang period.  This rare example was likely produced in the late 1740’s or early 1750’s and demonstrates the strong influence of Tang Ying’s style and quality of enameling.  Clearly inspired by imperial examples, the central scene depicts boys at play, a favorite subject on Qing-dynasty works of art, which symbolizes the continuation of the family line.

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