A white nephrite double-gourd 'lingzhi' snuff bottle. Possibly Imperial, 1730–1800. photo Bonhams

sold with accompanying watercolour by Peter Suart, 6.73cm high. Sold for HK$264,000

Treasury 1, no. 63


The Lingzhi Double Gourd

Nephrite; very well hollowed and carved in the form of a double gourd; with a sash tied in a bow around its waist and holding a double-headed lingzhi; a branch of leaves and tendrils from the vine also disposed across the two bulbs of the gourd
Possibly imperial, 1730–1800
Height: 6.73 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.59/1.20 cm
Stopper: glass; silver collar
Condition: miniscule nibble to the outer lip smoothed; otherwise workshop condition

Illustration: watercolour by Peter Suart

Provenance: Sydney L. Moss Ltd.
C. S. Wilkinson
Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (London, circa 1963)
Cyril Green
Hugh Moss
The Belfort Collection (1986)
The Connoisseur, February 1966, p. 11
Chinese Snuff Bottles No. 2, p. 27, fig. 1
Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty 1978, p. 100, no. 161
Jutheau 1980, p. 112, fig. 4
Kleiner 1987, no. 32
Bloch Collection Poster (1987), reproduction of watercolours by Peter Suart
Treasury 1, no. 63
Hong Kong Museum of Art, October–December 1978
L'Arcade Chaumet, Paris, June 1982
Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1997

Commentary: This extraordinary bottle is another of the great masterpieces of the fruit-, and vegetable-form group of bottles and another likely candidate to be from the hand of the 'Castiglione of jade carving' (see discussion under Treasury 1, no. 62 and for another possible candidate, Treasury 1, no. 65). It is also linked through other examples to a possible imperial source, and perhaps the palace workshops, which is also endorsed by the slightly chalky white flaws around the shoulders which are in keeping with other known jade used in the palace (see discussion under Treasury 1, no. 149). In common with so many of the group it is not made to stand but to be held in the hand. Another possibility if it is from the imperial output, whether at Beijing and the palace or some other workshop, is that it was designed originally to have a stand. There is ample evidence to suggest that the rule at court was for wood, ivory, or some other material to be carved as a stand for most works of art and it is possible that this also extended to some snuff bottles. On the other hand, the snuff bottle may have been a general exception since it was made for use primarily in the hand, whereas vases, bowls, small sculptures, objects for the scholar's desk, etc. were all made to be viewed as independent sculpture. To whatever extent these other works of art might also be handled, they were mostly not designed to function primarily in the hand.

The asymmetrical double gourd is superbly well carved. The loosely tied sash, with its calligraphic ends seemingly whipped in the breeze, encloses a double-headed lingzhi which simply knocks all other lingzhi on jade snuff bottles into a cocked-hat for style, execution and sheer visual impact. Simply gazing at it seems to breathe a little of the immortality symbolism it carries into the viewer, and by carving it so brilliantly, the artist who made this bottle certainly achieved for himself a level of immortality. The rest of the carving lives up to the same level of mastery, and the leaves of the severed vine also have some relief and some incised skeletal details, linking the bottle to other similar works (see discussion under Treasury 1, no. 65).

The meaning of the sash (shoudai) denotes longevity (shou), while the knot (jie) can be interpreted as a homophone of another character meaning vast, so together the knot and the sash (jieshou) signify a very long life, which is in keeping with the symbolism of the lingzhi and, when added to the wish for ample progeny of the double gourd, suggests longevity and many offspring.



高:6.73 厘米
口經/唇經:0.59/1.20 厘米

有彼德小話 (Peter Suart) 水彩畫
Sydney L. Moss Ltd
C. S. Wilkinson
Hugh M. Moss Ltd (倫敦, 約 1963)
Cyril Green
Belfort 珍藏 (1986)
The Connoisseur, 1966年2月, 頁 11
Chinese Snuff Bottles 2, 頁 27, 圖 1
Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, 頁 100, 編號161
Jutheau 1980, 頁 112, 圖 4
Kleiner 1987, 編號32
伯樂珍藏海報 (1987), 彼德小話 (Peter Suart) 水彩畫復製
Treasury 1, 編號63
香港藝術館,1978年10 月至12月
L'Arcade Chaumet, 巴黎, 1982年6月
Sydney L. Moss Ltd, 倫敦, 1987年10 月
Creditanstalt, 維也納, 1993年5月至6月
Israel Museum, 耶路撒冷, 1997年7月~11月


雕呈的一莖靈芝有兩頭,獨特的樣式、精巧的雕琢,都讓別的靈芝大為遜色了。視之有紫芝可採三山近之感;玉工呢,的確是遺物後人守,修成垂不朽。葫蘆葉葉脈有的是陰線刻的,有的是浮雕的, 這和伯樂珍藏中另外一些軟玉煙壺相同。

Bonhams. Snuff Bottles from the Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part I, 28 May 2010 to 29 May 2010. JW Marriott Hotel www.bonhams.com