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A FINE AND RARE WHITE OVERLAY BLUE GLASS SNUFF BOTTLE
A FINE AND RARE WHITE OVERLAY BLUE GLASS SNUFF BOTTLE

1760-1850

Details
A FINE AND RARE WHITE OVERLAY BLUE GLASS SNUFF BOTTLE
1760-1850
The slightly compressed bottle of elongated pear shape, the white overlay carved with a continuous design of three magpies perched amid branches of flowering prunus and pine and a clump of bamboo, the overlaid tablet by the bamboo incised with the inscription 'The Three Friends of Winter', stopper
3 1/16 in. (7.78 cm.) high
Provenance
Christie's, New York, 3-4 November 1977, lot 291
Hugh M. Moss Ltd.
Literature
Moss et. al., The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle, The J & J Collection, vol. 2, no. 386
The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle, Poly Art Museum, Beijing, p. 117.
Exhibited
Christie's New York, 1993
Empress Place Museum, Singapore, 1994
Museum fur Kunsthandwerk, Frankfurt, 1996-1997
Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London, 1997
Naples Museum of Art, Florida, 2002
Portland Museum of Art, Oregon, 2002
National Museum of History, Taipei, 2002
International Asian Art Fair, Seventh Regiment Armory, New York, 2003
Poly Art Museum, Beijing, 2003

Lot Essay

Designs of birds perched on flowering branches, as on the present bottle, are taken directly from Song dynasty paintings where bird and flower compositions became popular. The birds are represented as the harbingers of Spring as they perch on a flowering prunus branch which blossoms in late winter.

The inscription on the bottle Suihan Sanyou describes the vegetation 'The Three Friends of Winter' - bamboo, pine and prunus. The theme of the Three Friends also first emerged in poetry of the Song dynasty and then in paintings. Each plant is symbolic in its own right. Bamboo is naturally flexible and is thus associated with immutability or humility. The pine represents longevity and the prunus perseverance. As they number three, the Three Friends are also equated to the three religions of China (Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism) or the three ideal qualities of a gentleman in their individual attributes.

As a rule, overlay bottles consist of darker colors set against a lighter ground, so bottles with a light-colored overlay are the exception, and the present bottle is a spectacular example of this rare group. Its elegant and unusual form is enhanced by a well-carved design in opaque white on opaque blue. The three birds are particularly well laid out, and their overall effect, each reacting to the others, gives the scene a sense of movement which imparts great vitality to the while design.
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