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New moulded gourd bottle

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Author Topic: New moulded gourd bottle  (Read 335 times)
Wattana
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« on: January 15, 2016, 05:00:40 am »

Things are a bit quiet on the forum, so I'm sharing a moulded gourd bottle I bought last year.

Moulded gourd bottle of bulbous baluster shape, resting on a raised flat base with an incised seal mark; the slightly flared neck terminated with an everted lip capped with a black horn mouth; the body decorated in relief with a continuous landscape scene of mountains, trees, pavilions and figures overlooking a lake with a fisherman in a boat; a three-character inscription above. Stopper of black horn with grey streaks.   

Height without stopper: 8.4 cm

Probably Heibei Province, 2000 - 2010

There seems to be a recent revival of this ancient technique of growing gourds inside moulds. I have seen a number of them up for sale in the last couple of years. I heard that they are mostly grown in the Heibei area, but I’ve not been able to confirm if that is true or not.

This one particularly caught my eye, which is what prompted me to buy it. Unlike some of the modern gourd bottles which appeared on the market in the late 1900s in imitation of older examples, these newer ones show a high level of skill in the detailing - clearly carved into the surface to enhance the bottle after the basic form has been removed from the mould. The delicacy of the carving and wrap-around composition remind me more of bamboo brush pots than moulded gourds.   

Tom 


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« Last Edit: January 15, 2016, 05:09:04 am by Wattana » Report Spam   Logged

Tom
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« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2016, 08:36:37 am »

Beautiful bottle. I bid on this bottle too, so you must have just pipped me here. The example you posted here was imo the nicest example the seller had on sale as she had a few others too.  Grin
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« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2016, 10:05:42 am »

Very nice indeed..  !

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Fiveroosters
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« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2016, 03:15:58 pm »

Dear Tom,
very nice bottle. I am surprised in hearing that these are not just moulded, but they are carved too. I never thought that, because if carved the surface of the carved points should look completely different from the rest, since the skin has gone with the carving. Are you sure that they are carved?
Kind regards
Giovanni
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Wattana
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« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2016, 05:56:32 am »

Dear Giovanni,

You may well be right. I have examined the bottle with a loupe at 5x magnification and the skin appears undamaged. But I do not see how the finer details are achieved without some 'assistance' after removing the gourd from the mould. For example, if you look at the delicate pine needles, the roof of the pavilion, or the distant trees on the mountain, this degree of sharpness in these lines is unlikely to come from the mould itself. Perhaps immediately after removing the gourd from the mould it is still a little soft, and the surface can be pressed down with a sharp tool, without cutting through the skin.

I have no other explanation!

Regards,
Tom
« Last Edit: January 17, 2016, 05:59:45 am by Wattana » Report Spam   Logged

Tom
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« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2016, 12:00:59 pm »

Dear Tom,
I may be wrong but I don't see problems in molding relatively small details. The carving produce more sharp edeges than molding. Byt for sure this technique too must have some tricks; it should not be easy to obtain a perfect bottle like your one without having the proper know how.
Kind regards
Giovanni
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Wattana
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« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2016, 08:33:51 pm »

Dear Giovanni,

The technique of gourd moulding has been known in China for many centuries. It is most commonly seen on old cricket cages, but because snuff bottles interest me more than insect cages, I can only compare with other snuff bottles I have seen over the last 40 years. The failure rate was very high during the Qing dynasty, so they were much treasured, despite the humble nature of the material. Even the best ones, some of which are in the Imperial museum collections in Taipei and Beijing, do not have the level of crispness seen on this new bottle. From this I would agree with you that there are some new tricks being used to create bottles of this quality.

Tom
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« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2016, 09:00:59 pm »

Tom

I think it is a beautiful bottle.  The crispness of the molding is fascinating, they are usually more 'rounded' at the edges of the carving or pressing (not sure what to call them).  I wonder whether there is not actually some carving going on and then perhaps it is dyed again. 
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Wattana
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« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2016, 10:06:05 pm »

Thanks Pat,

Yes, the crispness is perplexing. As I mentioned to Giovanni, my experience of moulded gourds is that the edges are more rounded, as you say. Close examination under magnification shows that the 'skin' has cracked in a few places where the relief is deep and sharp, such as at the eaves of the pavilion roof. But I do not see any place where the surface layer of skin has been removed. So in that respect, Giovanni was correct - there does not appear to be any carving. Pressing the not-quite-hard gourd with a sharp sculpting tool just after it is removed from the mould seems to be the answer.

The exception maybe is the seal on the base, which appears to be etched in places.

By the way, can anyone help with translating the seal, and the 3-character inscription on the shoulder?

Tom
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« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2016, 12:36:06 pm »

Dear Tom,

The seal on the base reads, Dao Guang Nian Zhi. 
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Tom B.

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« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2016, 01:10:32 pm »

Hi Tom,

The 3- character inscription on shoulder is" 松山图“ which can be translated " Pine Mountain picture".

I hope it helps.Smiley

Steven
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« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2016, 04:17:55 pm »

Dear Tom, Pat, all,

I think that the difference in the mold material will account for the added crispness and definition of the design.  In the early days of this art form, the artist would carve a positive model and then make negative piece-molds in pottery.  Ceramic piece-mold making has been a prominent art form in China since the early Bronze age ca 2000 BC.  The method of incorporating decorative designs in the molds for the various bronze ritual objects was perfected during the Shang Dynasty (ca. 1600–1050 B.C.), but it always required subsequent hand carving of the ceramic piece-molds and hand finishing of the end product.  In molded ceramic snuff bottles you can see the quality difference on Qianlong & Jiaqing molded porcelain snuff bottle
when compared to late 19th century copies.  The copies were not enhanced after molding. 

I am not sure but I think that your bottle was grown into a light metal mold; probably an aluminum alloy mold cast with modern technology. A metal mold would be able to impart the fine impression without being damaged by the pressure exerted by the growth of the gourd. It was probably a three-piece mold as we can see two vertical mold lines but they don't appear through the base.  Can you see a horizontal mold line above the base?   

Best regards,

Tom B.

PS - a little extra information:
The lost wax method of casting bronze was not generally used in China before the Warring States period (476-221 BC) or during the Han Dynasty circa 100 BC, depending on which expert's opinion you believe. Lost wax results in a very well defined high quality seamless mold.   Modern copies of archaic bronze objects are made using the lost wax method.
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Tom B.

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« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2016, 04:22:32 pm »

Thanks Steven, I only recognized the middle 'shan' character.

My mistake, I just re-examined the base and see that the mold lines appear to go through the base also.
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« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2016, 03:44:02 am »

Dear Tom and Steven,
  Thank you both for the translations.
  Tom, I will take a closer look at the base of the bottle when I get home later tonight. I have no experience of growing gourds into moulds, so accept what you say about the use of a metal alloy mould. All I can say is that the standard of definition and crispness is something the Qianlong emperor would undoubtedly have envied! None of the examples in the Imperial collections come anywhere close. 

Tom
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« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2016, 03:47:29 am »

Tom

Now you have a delight even the emperor couldn't enjoy ... relish it.... lol
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« Reply #15 on: January 19, 2016, 09:22:13 am »

Hi Tom

The base mark is "Guangxu Nian Zhi", made in year of emperor Guangxu.

For your reference.

Regards.


Richard
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« Reply #16 on: January 19, 2016, 12:05:45 pm »

Dear Richard,

Yes of course you are correct, thank you for picking up my error in reading the Zhuan shu seal mark.

Guangxu marks on porcelain are almost always in Kai shu script and Daoguang marks are usually in Zhuan shu seal script.  So my mind automatically associated the Zhuan shu 'guang' character with "DaoGuang".  Huh 

I have owned a few porcelain pieces with Guangxu seal marks and have identified the mark for others on Gotheborg.com over the years, so I should have known better.  My bad.   Embarrassed

Actually one of my favorite pieces is a qianjiang-style decorated Guangxu Mark & Period covered bowl that is dated with the WuXu year (1898) and signed by one of the most famous porcelain artists of that time, Xu Pin Heng.  It has a total of three four character Guangxu Zhuan shu seal marks; one on each base and one following the signature of the artist.

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Tom B.

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« Reply #17 on: January 19, 2016, 01:05:53 pm »

Dear Tom,

Perhaps I wasn't clear enough in my earlier post.  The difference in Qianlong period molded porcelain and late Qing copies is the added hand finishing of the carved details including the removal of the mold lines and sharpening of some details as necessary.  They could not do that with molded gourds because you would expose the inner pulp leaving it unprotected from ill effects of moisture, soil, etc. 

The following is an interesting link about the history of growing gourds inside of carved molds in China:

http://georgiagourdguy.com/Chinese_Mold.php

There is even one documented example from the Song Dynasty in a Japanese monastery and written records suggest that they were used as early as the Xia Dynasty in 2000 BC.
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Tom B.

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« Reply #18 on: January 19, 2016, 03:04:19 pm »

Dear Tom,

Thank you so much for the link! its really interesting to read the  history of growing gourds inside of carved molds.

Steven
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« Reply #19 on: January 19, 2016, 11:55:56 pm »


The base mark is "Guangxu Nian Zhi", made in year of emperor Guangxu.


Hi Richard,

Many thanks!

Regards,
Tom
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