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Lacquer (I hope) bottle

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« on: September 12, 2012, 12:18:03 pm »

Dear all,
In only two days that I am here, this is the second bottle that I am posting. Hope it is not too much, it is because of my enthusiasm.  Please apologize the many questions that I will made here. The problem is that I know really nothing about lacquer. And even worst, I have never handled a genuine lacquer ware. Beside knowing what it is, the only other information that I have on lacquer is that it is made by a lot of layers. Indeed I have seen pictures of lacquer ware where the layers are clearly visible, but I have also seen pictures where they are not visible. So my question is: are the layers always visible, at least under a microscope if not at naked eye? If the answer is yes, then this bottle is not made of lacquer. Unless there are other methods of fabrication. I have a good stereo microscope and where the lacquer is chipped I see that it is a bit grainy, I do not see layers at all. Does existed some sort of lacquer in some sort of paste, instead of a liquid that has to be dried? Basically the main question is: when a bottle is described as Cinnabar lacquer does it necessarily means that has been made by many layers of lacquer? If so, they should always be quite expensive. I can’t imagine a lacquer bottle, made that way, well carved and so on, sold for let say 200 dollars. What am I missing here? And, furthermore: is the lacquer hard? The lacquer of this bottle is soft, it can be easily scratched by a needle. Anyway, I don’t think that the bottle that follows has been molded, unless multiple mold has been used. I have already seen fake Cinnabar lacquer bottles, where the joint of the mold can be easily seen. This one has no joint, nor should have because the carving is made in a way that the mold could not have been detached. I mean the sides of the deep carving are not parallel. Well, I am sure that you can improve my knowledge on the matter. Here is my only Cinnabar bottle, let see if I bought a fake or not. What I found good is that the patina of the brass looks natural, not artificially aged. The bottle is 6.3 cm high without the stopper.
Thank you very much in advance. 
Giovanni


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« Last Edit: September 14, 2012, 08:15:06 pm by Bottle Guy » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2012, 12:20:12 pm »

PS: while posting, I have seen that the type of bottles under this Organic section say: “Lacquer, Cinnabar, ..” Are perhaps lacquer and cinnabar two different things?
Perhaps biased by my background on Chinese porcelain, I think that you need more details to look at. So here I am posting some more pictures.
Giovanni


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« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2012, 01:06:51 pm »

Hi Givoanni,

I think the bottle is questionable, its a modern bottle for sure, but the question is if its a real lacquer bottle, since I know there is still have the craftman making the modern real lacquer bottle by using the traditional technique.

It certainly looks much better than the other fake ones out on the Market, but I am not sure if its real.

2 reasons, 1st of all the wave lines on the back is way smooth and way accurate, I mean not a single mistake made,. that is a sign for the fake ones.
2nd, we should can see the layers somewhere sepcially for the chipped area, since some of finished surface can be polished, then we can't see the layers.

I can be wrong, but that is my 2 cents.

Steven
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« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2012, 01:25:16 pm »

Here is an example posted by our member James on our member board.

Since you are not able able to view it right now,so I post here to share with you.



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« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2012, 01:55:11 pm »

Hi Giovanni and Steven.

I have a few problems with this bottle. Firstly the colour is wrong, on the close ups it seems almost day-glo orange. The older bottles will have a deep almost maroon colour where the cinnabar has faded in the sunlight over many years. Secondly it seems like it has been coated in some sort of grease or shoe-polish. Thirdly (I fear I might be wrong on this one) but I have never seen that 'wave-like' diaper pattern on a snuff bottle before (but I am vastly inexperienced so am ready to be corrected). Fourthly, that is a very poorly executed Qianlong mark. Fifthly, the carving seems very 'jagged' and I can't really see any tool / knife marks to justify such 'jaggedness'.

That is my first critique on this forum and I think i've stuck my neck out a long way there. You guys please be sure to disagree with me if i've over-analysed anything Smiley

Here is a direct comparison to an 18th c. Imperial bottle sold at Christies (I haven't noted the auction date, sorry)

James


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« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2012, 03:37:06 pm »

Hello Steven and James. Bad news, hein? Well, what is important to me is understand this kind of ware. So Steven for what you say I surmise that the layers should be always visible. I was just a few minutes ago checking again the bottle with the stereo microscope. There are no layer, and I believe that it is a sort of plastic (unless the cinnabar can also be molded, which I don’t know).
I know the picture that you have posted as a reference. James must have taken it from Gotheborg.com, a forum of which, as said in my “Introducing myself” post, I too am a member. That picture has been posted in a not fortunate discussion, where I expressed my doubts on a bottle sold by Christies. Of course my comments were just notes made by a non competent person as I am when it comes to lacquer ware, but unfortunately a knowledgeable member there, who did handle the bottle at the preview,  did took this as a personal attack and felt himself offended by what I said. It has been an unfair misunderstanding. The bottle can be seen here, where the images can be enlarged:
http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot/a-rare-and-finely-carved-red-lacquer-5541917-details.aspx?from=searchresults&pos=8&intObjectID=5541917&sid=f3aaa313-5605-4ef0-af57-202dc98bc2c5&page=8
Well, you can enlarge the pictures provided by Christies and you will not see anywhere the layer of the lacquer. Must be matter of resolution of the image. I am reporting here my notes made about the bottle in the un-fortunate post:
Look at the first image below, the flower within the yellow oval: does it looks carved? Not so much to my eyes.

Now look at the next image, the second one. Looks at that short lines highlighted by the yellow lines, at the border between the round pattern and the wall of the rock. Does make it sense that the carver took the trouble to do that? Why? It make no sense to me.

Now look at the details shown by the yellow arrows in the third image. Imagine that you are shaping the petals. The cutter should go straight down to the ground, no? What is that sort of circumference around each bunch of petals? Doesn’t is it the result of a mold? (Note that this detail can be seen on my bottle too).

And look in the fourth image the details in the yellow circles. Are these carved? They have the typical deformation that can have some plastic, and not of good quality, when, still soft because of the heat, is detached by the mold.

These above were my notes on Christies’ bottle. Back to my bottle, I have no doubt that it is carved. The wave motif, if seen very enlarged, shows that very well, because the ridges of the waves are not straight up, they are sharply cut and a little bent (I can’t find the right words).
But I believe that it is made of some sort of plastic. May be a burning test? Or test some chip with a thinner? I did read that the lacquer is not diluted by thinner, I don’t know if it is true.
Thank you again
Giovanni




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« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2012, 04:21:41 pm »

Hi Giovanni. I took that image from the lacquer section on gotheborg and annotated it (as I stated in the topic Steven reposted it from).

Regarding your bottle, do you think they would hand carve a plastic bottle? I'm not implying anything by that question, it was an honest question.

Does anyone have any close ups of a piece-moulded resin bottle?

James
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« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2012, 04:38:39 pm »

Hi Giovanni,

I have to say that I tend to believe that one from Christies look right to me.

1st image, you are right, we can't see the carved detail very well( I mean the sharp edge), but if its a old bottle, after years holding by the hands, it should have some wear on it, unlike the porcelain ware, we can't see the fade off the colors, but  the edge will be smoother.

2nd image, I do think the old craftman will take effort to go through every detail which can be approached, that could be the difference of the modern piece and old piece. at least I do think so.

3rd image, I also think its a sign of the carving, you are right the cutter was supposed to be go straight down,, but in the real life, the craft man should have a cut to get  red paint out, if its not  so accurate, then you will have the result( I don't know if it make senseto you or not), I did some seal carving when I was young, I thnk I can understand the situation.

4th , since   the Lacquer is kind of oil paint, its very sensitive to the heat too, it might be deformed due to the high tempature.

I still think the layers should be detected somewhere, but I think the resolution of the pic is not high enough for us to see it.

Please feel free to have your comments, I will be felt attacked if you have different opinion:), and I am sure it will be a good discussion. Grin

Steven




 
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« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2012, 11:32:10 pm »


Regarding your bottle, do you think they would hand carve a plastic bottle? I'm not implying anything by that question, it was an honest question.

Does anyone have any close ups of a piece-moulded resin bottle?


Hi James, Giovanni and Steven,
  
When I first started collecting in the early 1970s I acquired 3-4 bottles that, with my inexperienced eye, I thought were cinnabar lacquer, complete with the brass collar and foot, and Qianlong reign mark! They all turned out to be modern fakes made of 'synthetic resin'. I prefer using this term to 'plastic', because some of the characteristics of the material are quite close to cinnabar lacquer, of which the main ingredient is natural resin.
  
Many of the cheaply made modern fakes are very obviously created from two halves in a mold, with a join down the lateral sides. These often have a few minute air bubbles, released by the resin as it dries. To hide this, they are usually coated with some kind of finishing varnish. The better ones show no sign of a join down the sides, have no air bubbles, no varnish, and the carving has sharper detailing. That is because the design is only roughly formed in the mould, after which the surface decoration is carved in the same way as a genuine cinnabar lacquer bottle, using similar skills and tools, completely hiding the join. Regrettably I cannot show you an example, since mine are in the UK and I don't have pictures of them here in Thailand.
  
You may ask: why waste a craftsman's time and skills on finely carving a synthetic resin bottle? Unfortunately, the craftsman's time costs the factory owner very little, as it may take him only 1-2 days to carve a nice design. On the other hand the procedures involved to make genuine cinnabar lacquer, building up multiple layers, allowing each to cure properly before the next, may take 4-6 weeks. The synthetic resin saves huge amounts of time, and (as we know) time = lost profit.
  
In my opinion, based on the photos, Giovanni's bottle is a skilfully carved modern bottle, and most probably (although I cannot be 100% sure) made of a synthetic resin. If you press your finger nail firmly into a piece of genuine cinnabar lacquer for 10-15 seconds (in a warm room) it will leave an indentation, which will disappear in 1-2 hours as the lacquer "springs" back. Plastic will not do that. It is quite a good test, although not entirely fool-proof, as some of the modern synthetic resins can behave in a similar way.

One final point on dating: no genuine Qianlong period cinnabar lacquer snuff bottle is known to carry a reign mark on its base.

Tom
    
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« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2012, 12:49:15 am »


Regarding your bottle, do you think they would hand carve a plastic bottle? I'm not implying anything by that question, it was an honest question.

Does anyone have any close ups of a piece-moulded resin bottle?


You may ask: why waste a craftsman's time and skills on finely carving a synthetic resin bottle? Unfortunately, the craftsman's time costs the factory owner very little, as it may take him only 1-2 days to carve a nice design.     

Someone, I believe may have been Charll.. Noted that these resin molded/carved type bottles actually had a place, and were in fact used for snuff usage. Also, yes.. Some of these resin bottles are carved as compared to molded. As Tom noted.. The molded bottles are pretty easy to identify via the obvious mold marks running down the sides, across the top, and base of the bottle.

 Mid-century resin bottles are actually important to the history of the snuff bottle and the tradition of snuff use.

I think we can also think about amber when talking about resin bottles.  Amber is the fossilized resin of an extinct species of conifer.
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« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2012, 02:27:51 am »

Ah I can see that now, the process of moulding and then finishing by hand, that makes a lot of sense.

George and Tom: so you're almost saying that 'synthetic resin' is just a modern material available to the craftsmen at that time (mid 20th Century) and should not be looked down upon on as 'inferior'? The craftsmen was just doing his job. In fact a craftsmen could make a bottle from micro-chips and it should still be looked at with a respectful eye, even though it is an unnatural and modern material? Thats a very open-minded way of looking at materials, I like that. My brain automatically goes; 'modern = bad'.

I might have MASSIVELY over-elaborated and put words in your mouth there Smiley

James
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« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2012, 02:35:52 am »

Steven I think you meant "NOT ATTACKED", below.  Wink
Joey


Hi Giovanni,

I have to say that I tend to believe that one from Christies look right to me.

1st image, you are right, we can't see the carved detail very well( I mean the sharp edge), but if its a old bottle, after years holding by the hands, it should have some wear on it, unlike the porcelain ware, we can't see the fade off the colors, but  the edge will be smoother.

2nd image, I do think the old craftman will take effort to go through every detail which can be approached, that could be the difference of the modern piece and old piece. at least I do think so.

3rd image, I also think its a sign of the carving, you are right the cutter was supposed to be go straight down,, but in the real life, the craft man should have a cut to get  red paint out, if its not  so accurate, then you will have the result( I don't know if it make senseto you or not), I did some seal carving when I was young, I thnk I can understand the situation.

4th , since   the Lacquer is kind of oil paint, its very sensitive to the heat too, it might be deformed due to the high tempature.

I still think the layers should be detected somewhere, but I think the resolution of the pic is not high enough for us to see it.

Please feel free to have your comments, I will be felt attacked if you have different opinion:), and I am sure it will be a good discussion. Grin

Steven




 
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« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2012, 02:51:06 am »

Giovanni,
   First of all, THANK YOU for posting stuff. If I could figure out how it works, I would too (Pace, Peter, I'm a Jewish Luddite!).

   In my opinion, as one who, like Tom, bought a modern resin snuff bottle (in the early 1970s), imitating cinnabar lacquer;  and has had genuine cinnabar lacquers since the early 1980s (at the time, good 19th C. examples); then, in the later 1980s and early 1990s, superb 18th C. Imperial Palace Workshops examples (one I still have, in my Irish collections), yours is a modern, very good quality imitation.

   Unlike Charll & George, if I've read this thread correctly (I apologise if I've not), I don't believe these, good quality or not, were made as anything but fakes to fool collectors.

  Incidentally, cinnabar is the material used to colour the lacquer red. So if it is red lacquer, it is called 'cinnabar' lacquer; green lacquer is called 'teadust green' lacquer; black, black lacquer; etc.

  Great thread! Great info from Tom, Steven, James, etc.
Joey
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« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2012, 03:17:26 am »


George and Tom: so you're almost saying that 'synthetic resin' is just a modern material available to the craftsmen at that time (mid 20th Century) and should not be looked down upon on as 'inferior'? The craftsmen was just doing his job. In fact a craftsmen could make a bottle from micro-chips and it should still be looked at with a respectful eye, even though it is an unnatural and modern material?


James,

I don't know enough about the topic from George on 20th-century usage to which you are referring, so cannot comment on whether there is any justification for "allowing for" these resin bottles in the history of snuff bottle development. But I DO agree with Joey's point.

There is a HUGE difference between imaginative use of new materials/techniques to create contemporary bottles for collectors, and making fakes in order to fool unsuspecting buyers.

In my opinion, modern inside-painted bottles fall into the first group, while cinnabar-coloured resin bottles with Qianlong reign marks epitomize the second group.

Sorry Giovanni, I don't mean to downgrade your bottle! If it's any consolation, I still have my "fake" cinnabar bottle, as an example of good 1970s workmanship. It is a curio that may one day be worth something!

Tom
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« Reply #14 on: September 13, 2012, 03:34:38 am »

Yes, Tom,
  when the 'Resins' are all extinct! Wink Grin Grin
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« Reply #15 on: September 13, 2012, 05:29:52 am »

Dear Tom, Joay, all,
sorry I am in a hurry now, and beside that I am having troubles in taking good pictures (auto-focus device, I hate you!!).
But perhaps I have some new about my bottle. Stay tuned, I hope to be able to post something tonight.
Warm regards
Giovanni
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« Reply #16 on: September 13, 2012, 07:46:21 am »

Dear all,
sorry for my quick previous post. It was time to run to lunch, I was late because I did a long post about Jun ware in another place here. I am trying to take some pictures through the microscope, but the auto-focus of the camera is driving me crazy. I hate automatisms. Being photography one of my past hobbies, I like to manage the camera myself.
I hope to be able to take the pictures this late evening (I am at job now. I am retired but still working). In the meanwhile, some quick notes:
Dear Steven, I did not meant to reiterate my doubts on Christie's bottle. I just reported my notes that I made in another forum. Christie's should not made such a big mistake after all and especially the member there that un-fprtunately felt my notes as a personal attack is knowledgeable both in lacquer and in bottles. I didn't know that, hence the misunderstanding with him. Anyway dear Steven you can sharpen your weapons because I am going to attack you after what I have found out last night at the microscope SmileySmileySmileySmiley
Dear Tom, thank you so much. I did the indentation test. I made two indentation marks before lunch and after lunch they was disappeared. And thank you so much for the precious information that there are no known Qianlong lacquer bottles bearing the reign mark.
Dear George, about resin/lacquer: the use of resin should have been started in the late 19th century, I think. Are you aware about the use of real lacquer? It is still in use? Or, when do you think should be dated a lacquer bottle in the worst case? Mid 19th century?
Dear Joey if I inderstood well you have an Imperial bottle. Congratulations! Thank you for explaining that cinnabar is just the colorant of the lacquer.
And, Tom, no downgrade felt about my bottle. What is really important is to me is to know what I have in hands, and be able to know why that.
So I hope to be able to take the pictures, but I can antecipate that I reach the conclusion that no doubt the bottle is hand carved, may be molded and then finished by hand as suggested by Tom. In some cases I believe that the carver did use some type of properly shaped hollow punch.
And, more important, the layers are there! Faintly visible, very hard to photograph, but no doubt there are fine layers which are not swirls in the resin. They are best seen on sloping surfaces like the rocks. Seen by cross view, they are all parallel with the body of the bottle. I really think that it is a lacquer bottle. About the color, that is matter of the camera sensor. Before to take pictures I carefully set the white balance of the camera. You can verify this on the background, which is a neutral grey cloth. You can see that it is grey, without color dominants. After that, because of my mentality of older photographer, I do not like to handle the image with image processors like Photoshop. So the hue of the colors is related with the sensor. It vary according to the manufacturer. Modern cameras tend to over-saturate the colors. I will came back later.
Thanks again
Giovanni
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« Reply #17 on: September 13, 2012, 09:42:23 am »


Dear Steven, I did not meant to reiterate my doubts on Christie's bottle. I just reported my notes that I made in another forum. Christie's should not made such a big mistake after all and especially the member there that un-fprtunately felt my notes as a personal attack is knowledgeable both in lacquer and in bottles. I didn't know that, hence the misunderstanding with him. Anyway dear Steven you can sharpen your weapons because I am going to attack you after what I have found out last night at the microscope SmileySmileySmileySmiley


Hi Givovanni,

I am glad that you found out its a lacquer bottle, I certainly can not be sure its a fake one, just thought its questionale:)

My weapons are all sharpen and ready to fight. Wink

Looking forward to seeing your photos .

All the best!

Steven
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« Reply #18 on: September 13, 2012, 02:00:12 pm »

Giovanni,
   Thank you for your congratulations. At one point I had 3 Imperial bottles, all with great provenance.
 
   One was all cinnabar lacquer,  hundreds of coats on a metal bottle, with no mark on the base, and an imperial 'nipple' stopper of a jade half mandarin bead, with a tiny seed pearl forming the 'nipple'. Since the bead is cut crossways, each half has a 'channel'. On one end, they would glue a seed pearl or tiny garnet bead; on the other, the spoon would be glued in, on a cork.

   The second was like the first, but the background had been intentionally cut down to the metal, and then the metal gilded. Carved amber stopper (no nipple!), and Imperial yellow glass collar. The base with a Shou symbol incised.

   The third, which I still have, is cinnabar lacquer on teadust green lacquer on a metal bottle. The background has been cut down to the teadust green level. The base also has a Shou symbol incised. The stopper is like the first one.

   Your bottle is very well made, and may well be cinnabar lacquer, but it still is not earlier than 1940s, because we don't know of genuine bottles earlier than that with matching stoppers and Qianlong marks on the base.

   It does look well carved though. There is also another possibility: A resin bottle then coated with a few coats of genuine lacquer, to resemble the real thing.
 
   Again, Welcome to the Forum,
Joey
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« Reply #19 on: September 13, 2012, 03:54:03 pm »

Dear Joey,
I envy your bottles. Thank you for your post. I like such kind of information, I mean the one about not known bottles (except my one, haha) made before 1940 bearing the mark and the matched stopper. It is so hard to have this type of information in the porcelain field. So that means that lacquer bottles was still made in 1940? Do you confirm that? Meaning by lacquer bottles the ones made by overlapping layers of lacquer.
Coming back to my bottle, I am furious with digital camera’s industry. The picture never comes out how you see it. I can see the layers but them do not comes out in the picture. This is because they think that over-saturated images are more appealing. But the result is a kind of melted color, the details, the faint hue changes, are gone. Anyway, to my eyes the layers are there, very thin layers that can especially be seen on the polished surfaces, especially the surfaces of the rocks because they are polished and sloped. Anyway, here below is a picture where probably you can see faint traces of the layer. I did add two yellow lines showing the layers profile, to help to see or wonder how they are. The second picture shows some minuscule brittles (the picture is taken through the microscope) of the red cinnabar lacquer that I scratched away from the bottom of the carving, dipped into acetone. They was not affected at all. I have read somewhere that this is a good sign. We can add to this the nail indentation test suggested by Tom. I understand that these are not all conclusive tests, but all together may have some significance.
A last note about the color, which indeed is more brownish and not so garish.
In conclusion, I believe that the chances are great, perhaps only a direct examination by an expert will be conclusive. I am very happy with all the contribution here, and deeply thank you.
Giovanni


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