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AN UNUSUAL CHALCEDONY SNUFF BOTTLE
AN UNUSUAL CHALCEDONY SNUFF BOTTLE

OFFICIAL SCHOOL, 1750-1850

Details
AN UNUSUAL CHALCEDONY SNUFF BOTTLE
OFFICIAL SCHOOL, 1750-1850
The well-hollowed bottle of rounded rectangular form and the stone of even semi-transparent honey color, the foot unusually carved utilizing the natural ochre markings with an inscription in relief, Yipian bingxin (literally, 'A piece of icy heart'), stopper
2 1/8 in. (5.21 cm.) high
Provenance
Oriental Arts, Taipei
Exhibited
Christie's Los Angeles, 2003

Lot Essay

For a discussion of the Official School of hard-stone carving, see H. Moss et. al., A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, Volume 2, Quartz, no. 258, where the numerous subsequent examples are all of the school. There is a small group of bottles known from this school with the decoration confined to the foot, one with a chi dragon, and another with an inscription among them and they relate to a group of cameo agates utilizing the ochre markings in the carving which can be associated with the Court (see, for instance, H. Moss et. al., A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, Volume 2, Quartz, no. 300) and the mid-Qing dynasty. This delightfully eccentric bottle has been dictated by the cameo design on the foot and leans towards one main side, an inherent feature since the depth of the foot is entirely even all around. It is extremely well hollowed, and a "quiet" delight in that it appears to be completely undecorated until one turns it up to see the carved foot.

The well-known icy heart metaphor is an idiomatic expression signifying a person who nurtures a pure heart. Such a person does not care about material wealth, and prefers to lead a tranquil life. The source of this term is the last line in a heptasyllabic poem entitled 'Seeing off Xin Jian on the Hibiscus Tower' by Wang Changling, an eighth century (Tang dynasty) poet. The poem reads:

The spring rain gutted the river as dusk fell in the region of Wu.
When it clears up at dawn I will se you off to the isolated mountains of Chu
If friends and relatives in Luoyang ask me,
[Tell them] my heart is like a piece of ice kept in a jade pot.
;

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