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Of rounded-rectangular form with recessed foot and concave lip, the unusual white and golden markings on one side carved with a scene from the famous Sui dynasty legend of the San Xia, in which the beautiful courtesan Hong Fu is shown in an interior room gazing into a mirror, the knight-errant Qiu Yanke (who was known as "Curly Whiskers") shown sitting cross-legged on a low platform in an adjacent open pavilion, his bag of riches on the floor in front of him, while in the foreground Li Jing leans on the saddle of his grazing horse by a large decorative rock formation behind which grows a pine tree, a corner of the reverse and part of one narrow side carved with a recumbent deer sniffing contentedly at lingzhi while a bat hovers above, glass stopper with jadeite finial and turquoise collar
2½ in. (6.4 cm.) high
The Right Hon. Malcolm MacDonald
Sotheby's, London, 18-19 December 1973, lot 620
Hugh Moss
Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, p. 117, no. 212
Viviane Jutheau, Guide du collectionneur de tabatières chinoises, p. 105, no. 1
Moss, Graham, Tsang, The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle. The J & J Collection, Vol. I, no. 143
Silver Kris, February 1995, p. 43, fig. e
Asian Art, September 1999, p.16, fig.22
The Miniature World-An Exhibition of Snuff Bottles from the J & J Collection, p. 44
Hugh M. Moss Ltd., London, September 1974
Hong Kong Museum of Art, October-December 1978
Christie's, New York, 1993
Empress Place Museum, Singapore, 1994
Museum für 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
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.

Lot Essay

The story represented on this extraordinary bottle is the Sui dynasty tale of the San Xia, the heroes of which are Hong Fu, famous for her beauty, Li Jing, a scholar, and the hero Qiu Yanke known as "Curly Whiskers." The story takes place during the reign of the inept Emperor Yang Di. Distracted by his love for women and other indulgences, Yang Di passes control of the Court to his vicious right-hand man, Yang Su, who builds an underground fortress where he harbors numerous assassins. Disgusted by the country's deplorable state, Hong Fu, Li Jing and Qiu Yanke, join forces to fight against the mutinous Yang Su and his cronies.
A transcendent masterpiece of Qing hardstone carving, this exceptional bottle combines inspired use of the material and masterful control of the medium. Genius in interpreting different colored markings in stones relies upon the ability of the artist to give the impression that he has not been constrained in any way by the material. This level of genius is epitomized here.
Hugh Moss, in Chinese Snuff Bottles of the Silica or Quartz Group, illustrates an agate bottle, no. 154, carved with an extremely similar deer to that which appears on the present bottle. Particularly similar are the distinctive snouts and the same pose. The close similarities suggest the same hand, and link these two bottles in turn to the famous example decorated with similar deer illustrated by B. Stevens, The Collector's Book of Snuff Bottles, nos. 584 and 1005. All three bottles are further united by an extraordinary sculptural command of unusual material, and by the large, flattened form set on a crisp and substantial foot rim typical of some of the finest of the bottles characterized by Moss as "Group B."
Of further note is the masterful use of the series of small, concentric markings around the flying bat. These lines are interspersed with small circles in subtly different tones of color, which, together, give the appearance of vortices in the air created by the bat as it flies above the deer.

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