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Chinese Snuff Bottle Discussion Forum 中國鼻煙壺討論論壇
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More wood bottles

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Author Topic: More wood bottles  (Read 1032 times)
Wattana
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« on: September 18, 2012, 03:30:23 am »

Hi All,

It has been a while since I started a new thread. We have a previous thread on this topic, but ivory bottles crept into it, so I thought it best to start a new one for (mostly plain) wood bottles. For some reason there are not as many old snuff bottles made of wood as one might expect. That could be because they are more susceptible to wear and damage over many years of handling, or that wood* was not seen as a 'valuable' material, so handled less carefully than bottles made of more precious materials; most probably a combination of the two.

[Note* - some woods were revered and highly valuable; those are not included in my generalization.]

Description: Burlwood snuff bottle of flattened oval form on a raised flat oval foot, with cylindrical neck and a brass lip, the body left plain without carving to reveal the attractive natural markings in the material. Red carnelian stopper.

Height: 5.6 cm
   
Commentary: Burlwood (huamu) is a general term used to describe the gnarled or knotty grain that is found near the base or root-bowl of a tree. This is a feature often associated in the West with walnut, but actually occurs naturally on a wide variety of trees. However, only a few kinds are available in sufficient quantities and have a consistently attractive grain pattern to make them desirable or viable for commercial use.

The main kinds of burlwood traditionally favoured by the Chinese for furniture, cabinetry and scholars objects are: birch (huamu), cedar (nanmu), rosewood (hualimu), maple (fengmu), and camphor (xiangchang) burl.

The term 'rootwood' is sometimes used to describe snuff bottles and other small objects fashioned from a single knot. Cedar is the most popular rootwood for these kinds of objects, and is also used for the 'root stands' on which Chinese works of art are sometimes displayed, as well as for the abstract gnarled wood sculptures popular amongst the literati. Scholar’s brush-pots with a heavily knotted or gnarled appearance are also made from this material.

The particular variety of burl used in the present snuff bottle has so far eluded positive identification. However, for another example fashioned from wood with identical visual characteristics see Clare Lawrence, The Thewlis Collection, no.77.


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« Last Edit: September 18, 2012, 03:33:37 am by Wattana » Report Spam   Logged

Tom
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« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2012, 06:08:14 am »

Interesting grain..
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Joey
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« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2012, 12:05:46 pm »

I agree with George. But I wouldn't necessarily buy it.
  I do have a kitchen in Bubinga burl (a West African hardwood. but it may be called Pupinga, or Pubinga, or Bupinga; Arabs can't say 'P' - they say 'b' for 'b' or for 'p'. ). My carpenter, Haj Zoheir Hirbawi, is an Arab...  Cheesy
Joey
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Joey Silver, collecting snuff bottles since Feb.1970

Wattana
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« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2012, 09:18:56 pm »

Joey,

And I wouldn't necessarily want to sell it!   Grin

Interesting that you mention Bubinga. (Its botanical name is Guibourtia demeusei ...in case you were dying to know! BTW, your Arabic carpenter may find that easier to say!!!)

Bubinga is one of the most beautiful African hardwood lumbers. Due to the fine tight grain and its reddish brown color bubinga is often referred to as “ African Rosewood”. The trees can grow quite large and five foot diameter logs are not uncommon making one piece table top slabs possible. It also has a wide variety of appearances, depending on the way it is cut, as shown below...

Tom


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« Last Edit: September 18, 2012, 09:21:06 pm by Wattana » Report Spam   Logged

Tom
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« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2012, 09:41:31 pm »

Hi Tom,

I like the heavy figure which show different characters than wood.
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Wattana
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« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2012, 10:14:12 pm »

Hi Steven,

I totally agree with you. Some woods have many characters - like people.
Don't get me started on woods.......I could start a whole new thread on this topic, but it has little to do with snuff bottles!  Grin
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Tom
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« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2012, 10:22:04 pm »

Hi Tom,

We will love to learn more from you, I don't think it has to be bottle related.

Steven
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Wattana
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« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2012, 04:00:27 am »

Another plain wood bottle, allowing the material to speak for itself.

Description: Rosewood (Dalbergia) snuff bottle of rounded rectangular form with cylindrical neck, flat lip, and a flat recessed base surrounded by a narrow oval footrim; the body left plain without carving to highlight the attractive natural markings in the material.  Coral stopper with black collar.

Height  5.7cm.

Commentary: Snuff bottles made of wood are not as common as may be expected, given the relative ease with which the material can be worked in comparison to most hardstones or glass. The present example is of wood from the Dalbergia species, commonly known as 'rosewood'. While this was and remains a popular and traditional wood used throughout China for furniture and cabinetry, it is actually a tropical variety, not native to China, being imported from the mid-Qing period onwards, mostly from South-East Asia, the Philippines, and possibly also from India. 

For another similar example see Bonhams-Glerum auction catalogue, Singapore, 17 May 1998, lot 312.
Another plain wood bottle was sold at Sotheby's Gerry Mack auction, New York, October 25, 1997, lot 248.



 



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Tom
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« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2012, 03:42:54 pm »

Thank you, Tom.
     I now know that it is really 'bubinga'!  Arabs have no problem pronouncing 'B'; their problem is 'P' (and Israel, and Jews! Wink).
    Seriously, my kitchen doors etc., are in the plain  Bubinga burl you illustrated, as well as my bathroom & bedroom doors, and my bathroom cupboards, etc. I love it, and since my kitchen is very well lit, with both natural and artificial light, the dark wood looks great. I had a problem with the inside of my bedroom door; it was too close visually, and the 'demon faces' visible because of the markings, were freaking me out.  I commissioned an artist friend to make me a copy of a painting I'd already bought from him, in 5 pieces, two long rectangular ones (5 ft.X 1 ft. each), and three wedge-shaped. The five filled in the spaces between 'framing' on the door, with a beautiful view of the Judean Wilderness. And now, I don't see the creepy 'demon faces' near me (the reverse sides of the doors, etc., don't bother me at all. it was the proximity of this one that caused the problem).

 Joey
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Joey Silver, collecting snuff bottles since Feb.1970

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« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2012, 04:04:15 pm »

Incidentally,
   I prefer the first bottle to the second. The grain is really beautiful. Thank you for posting them. I have a collection of brush pots, and love the grain on them.
Joey
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Joey Silver, collecting snuff bottles since Feb.1970

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« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2012, 10:10:13 pm »

Joey,

Thanks for your comments.

I'd love to see some of your brush pots. I wonder if George would allow us to start a thread in 'The Pub'?

Tom
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« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2012, 03:55:26 pm »

Tom,
   They are in Ireland. You can come visit after mid-April, 2013; or I can get them photographed and then get them loaded onto the site, again in mid-April, 2013.
 Joey
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Joey Silver, collecting snuff bottles since Feb.1970

Wattana
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« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2012, 04:44:56 am »

Hi All,

It has been a few months since I last posted a wood snuff bottle. I like the humble wood bottles - they are light to carry, usually have a nice patina, and are not thermo-conductive, so are warm and pleasant to handle in cold weather! Here is one I particularly like.

Description: Burlwood snuff bottle of compressed baluster shape with a slightly flared cylindrical neck, concave lip, and a recessed flat oval base surrounded by a footrim; carved with a three-legged toad climbing down on one main side from the shoulder. Mother-of-pearl stopper with a green glass collar.  Height w/o stopper 5.1 cm

Comment: Wood snuff bottles are less common than might be expected. However, there is a known series of these burlwood snuff bottles. They appear to date mostly from the second half of the Qing dynasty, continuing perhaps into the early 20th century. Some may have been made for a collector’s market, as a few of them have never been used, and they appear in some early Western collections, but this one has obviously been well used over a considerable period of time and probably dates from the mid-Qing.
    The three-legged toad is usually associated with the legend of Liu Hai and his string of coins, invoking commercial success. As a mythical creature, however, it pre-dates the legend. Three-legged creatures are of ancient origins, and the toad was long before associated with the moon, having been said to live in it.
    In the present example the three-dimensional carving of the toad contrasts with the bottle’s otherwise plain shape to create a dynamic and exciting object.



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« Last Edit: December 11, 2012, 04:47:03 am by Wattana » Report Spam   Logged

Tom
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« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2012, 09:46:38 am »

Hi Tom,

That is really a attractive bottle, I am really interested in the wood grain which is not common as I can tell, can it be a root bottle?

Steven
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« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2012, 06:27:14 pm »

Wonderful bottle ...  Smiley
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Wattana
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« Reply #15 on: December 11, 2012, 08:29:18 pm »

Thanks guys,

Steven, it's hard to tell exactly what wood this bottle is made of. Burl refers to a deformation in the tree from injury or disease, which causes the grain to grow with a knotty or rope-like appearance. It can occur above ground or beneath the ground, but is usually found near the base or root-head of a tree. So this bottle may be from 'root' wood, but not necessarily so.

In Chinese the term huamu (桦木) is often associated specifically with birch, but I understand it is also a general term for burlwood. Burl occurs naturally on a wide range of trees, but only a few varieties have a consistently attractive grain pattern to make them desirable for commercial use. Another general name for burl woods is yingzimu. The term 'rootwood' (in English, at least) is normally used to describe objects fashioned from a single knot, such as stands and small tables.

The following varieties of burl are those most commonly found in Chinese Furniture: -

*huamu burl   = Chinese birch burl
*nanmu burl   = Chinese cedar burl
*hualimu burl   = rosewood burl
*fengmu burl   = maple burl
*xiangchang burl = camphorwood burl

[Steven, perhaps you can help provide the Chinese characters for the above.]  Cheesy

When it comes to small one-off items like snuff bottles, the craftsman has the opportunity to use a piece of burlwood from a more unusual source. That's why it is hard to tell without making a scientific (often destructive!) test.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2012, 08:33:58 pm by Wattana » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #16 on: December 11, 2012, 10:15:40 pm »

I would love to translate them to chinese.Smiley

But it seems that they don't match the Pinyin very well, I am not sure if there are different names for the same trees.

Chinese birch burl=桦木
Chinese cedar burl=杉木
rosewood burl=紫檀
maple burl=枫木
camphor wood burl=樟木

I kind of familar with camphor wood,since my parents have a case which made by it, it has a strong smell, which can repel the bugs, that is why its good for making case,  Rosewood is one of the most expensive wood in China, and its hard to find big piece of rosewood, so it always be made for small furniture, and its color is darker than other wood.

Anyway, its really hard to tell it the from the grain as you mentioned.

Steven
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« Reply #17 on: December 11, 2012, 11:40:30 pm »

Hi Steven,

It is very hard to match Chinese with the true botanical names, because different regions of China often use different names for the SAME wood. I tried to tabulate them all a few years ago, but gave up in the end!

See how these compare...

Chinese birch (Betula chinensis) = huamu (桦木)
Chinese cedar (Cryptomeria fortunei)  = nanmu (雪松木)
Rosewood (Dalbergia spp.) =  Huali mu (黄檀属)
Maple (Acer spp.) = feng mu (枫木)
Camphor wood (Cinnamomum camphora - laurel family) = xiang chang (樟属)

Yes, you are right about the properties of camphor wood. I would love to have a chest made of it. There are too many bugs eating my books in Thailand!
« Last Edit: December 11, 2012, 11:42:17 pm by Wattana » Report Spam   Logged

Tom
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« Reply #18 on: December 12, 2012, 02:28:25 am »

Dear Tom,
thank you for this thread. I too am crazy for woods (not related to snuff bottles). I have no time now but will post later about this.
Giovanni
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« Reply #19 on: December 12, 2012, 04:07:02 am »

Dear Giovanni,

That is great to hear! I have been studying woods, especially those used in oriental furniture, for some years.

Tom
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