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Chinese Snuff Bottle Discussion Forum 中國鼻煙壺討論論壇
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Suzhou carved bottles?

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Author Topic: Suzhou carved bottles?  (Read 685 times)
cshapiro
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« on: September 20, 2016, 09:56:48 pm »

Hi you guys,

So I just got these three bottles. The carvings on these and the carving on my gray and white jade all have some common traits. They all:

1. incorporate some of the color differences into the carving
2. Tend to include a house and rocks
3. Sometimes define borders with dots or jagged lines

So I know Joey has an issue with calling it Suzhou School - but would these bottles be considered to come from that area? Is the carving indicative of that? If not, any ideas?

Also any ideas on age? They are all well hollowed, have a slightly concave base, and are all kind of large measuring anywhere from 6.5 to 6.8cm tall.

Sorry the pictures aren't the best. I tried to tilt them so you could see the carving in more detail.


* suzhou.jpg (57.69 KB, 800x1364 - viewed 58 times.)
« Last Edit: September 20, 2016, 10:35:26 pm by cshapiro » Report Spam   Logged

Cathy

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« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2016, 10:45:47 pm »

Hi Cathy,

These are nicely carved bottles.  Since the Suzhou area near Shanghai is considered to be where the best stone carving workshops were and still are located, they may well be from that region. However, they are not what most collectors would describe as "Shuzhou" bottles, and, in my opinion, are fairly modern (that is to say 1980s onwards).

The specific traits of "Suzhou" bottles (and indeed all small carved objects) are hard to define in words. For a start, EVERY one of the natural markings is used and carved into something. Conversely, areas devoid of markings are left untouched, or carved in relatively light relief, as a painter might use a pale wash to indicate mountains in the distance. Additionally, the subject matter is always carved in raised relief. The intaglio effect seen on your first two bottles (i.e. the focal area set down below the general plane of the surroundings) is very rarely seen on older bottles. This is a commonly used modern technique.

Hugh Moss's book "Snuff Bottles of the Quartz or Silica Group" (Bibelot, London, 1971) gives a reasonably precise summary of the features which characterize "Suzhou". But you really have to see and handle a few examples to appreciate the difference.

Anyway, having said all that, if your three bottles are well hollowed and feel good in the hand, I think they are worthy additions to your collection.

Tom
« Last Edit: September 20, 2016, 10:49:46 pm by Wattana » Report Spam   Logged

Tom
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« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2016, 11:08:02 pm »

Thanks Tom

I don't have that book. Will have to get it.

So since my jade carving is much the same - what do you think of the dating on it?

I'm including a picture



* blackandwhitejade2.jpg (93.54 KB, 765x2742 - viewed 28 times.)
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Cathy
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« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2016, 11:25:07 pm »

Hi Cathy,

As Joey often says, it is not easy to make definitive judgments from photos. It's a bit like asking me to judge the value of a secondhand car from a few snapshots; without being able to look at it up close, handle and "test drive" it, any comment is limited.

In my opinion your jade bottle fits into the same timeframe as the 3 agates. It might even be from the same workshop. Apart from the overall shape you have to examine details, like the faces / hands of people, and the way the tree trunks and pine needles are carved. Apply the same scrutiny you give to the inside painted bottles. Painting and fine carving are not so different.   
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Tom
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« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2016, 11:56:31 pm »

I had no idea that carvings of this quality were made in the 80s onward.

It's really discouraging because I thought I did everything right on these - well hollowed, concave bases, even the top is concave on one of them, and I thought the carvings looked right based on the pictures I see in my books. 

I have not been able to see any bottles in person and that is a major problem I think.

I have ordered that book - I had been holding off on buying it because it's so pricey - but see it is a necessity.

Thanks for looking at them. I imagine I have paid way too much for them. Cry

I don't know why you say they are worthy to add to my collection? If they are modern fakes, then shouldn't they not be added? 

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Cathy
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« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2016, 12:43:03 am »


I don't know why you say they are worthy to add to my collection? If they are modern fakes, then shouldn't they not be added? 


Everyone has their own philosophy when it comes to what is worth collecting and what is not. Some set a standard based on how functional a bottle is (is it able to hold a day's supply of snuff?); others by how it feels in the hand (no rough or sharp edges); yet others by age alone (so even if it's not visually aesthetic, it's worth having because it's old). Each one of us uses a different set of criteria to evaluate and choose what we want to collect.
 
For me personally, if a bottle is finely made, is functional, is aesthetically pleasing, handles nicely, and is NOT trying to pass itself off as something it isn't, then it is worth keeping, even if it is modern. To do so hopefully encourages today's skilled lapidaries to openly take pride in their work, and not produce 'fakes', much as modern IP artists are doing.

The important thing is for the item to give you pleasure. Unfortunately it is human nature for collectors to develop a more and more critical view of their own collection as the years pass, so that a lot of the things we are attracted to early on become less tasteful later.

All that we on the forum are trying to do with new collectors is help guide their acquisitions so that they end up with less 'garbage' a few years down the road.

I don't consider your bottles to be 'fakes'. But whether they give you pleasure or not is something only you can answer. 
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« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2016, 12:58:01 am »

Cathy,

Here is a set of criteria I discussed with another forum member recently....

Expanding a little from the scoring system used in the recent Rio Olympic gymnastics events, we might look at appreciating stone carved snuff bottles on several different levels as follows:

1. Technical difficulty - such as the precision with which a basket-weave pattern is executed
2. Artistic merit - the originality, composition and aesthetic appeal of the bottle and any decorative carving on it
3. Shibui - a Japanese term implying subtle elegance (not overtly showy)
4. Tactile merit - an all-important aspect, not losing sight of the snuff bottle's functional origins
5. Spiritual content - the bottle's esoteric appeal, it's ability to 'speak' to you

Food for thought!
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Tom
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« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2016, 01:04:37 am »

Quote
I don't know why you say they are worthy to add to my collection? If they are modern fakes, then shouldn't they not be added?  

Cathy,

First off I'm not to keen on your jade bottle (it's just my personal taste) and would consider it a middle grade bottle. However, the three agates are a completely different story.  These are all modern contemporary art pieces and are not trying to fake anything.  And, as Tom indicated if well hollowed they are very collectible.  

What your doing in your disappointment would be analogous to you thinking you've bought a decent middle period IPB, when in reality it is a very good modern IPB created as art, and to be enjoyed as such.  

I'm more then happy collecting contemporary art snuff bottles, and would speculate that more than half my collection consist of such bottles.  I collect what gives me pleasure, stimulates the mind in research, and arouses the senses.

So if you see the need to dump these three bottles let me know.  

Charll  

P.S.- that is if they are not to expensive.   Wink      
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Charll K Stoneman, Eureka, California USA, Collector Since 1979.

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« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2016, 01:37:46 am »

Hahaha Thanks Charll for the laugh!

And Tom, thanks for the information.
These bottles spoke to me.
They are much nicer than anything else I have (which may not be saying much!)
and so I will try to appreciate them

I have ordered the book. Hopefully the lights will come on for me about these. From the reviews it sounds like an excellent reference. Thanks for suggesting it.
 Wink
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« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2016, 01:42:20 am »

Dear Charll,
I may be wrong, but since the market recently is flooded by such bottles, all very well hollowed, I suppose that the hollowing is made by computer controlled machines. If that is true, then the fact of being well hollowed is a no more important factor I think. I noted also that most of these modern bottles has the nice, so sought after (on old bottles) concave mouth. 
Kind regards
Giovanni
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« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2016, 05:31:47 am »

That's very well said Tom!
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« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2016, 06:40:32 am »

Hi Cathy :

Both the bottles are not too bad IMO, esp the first bottle. I do have a bottle that probably came from the same source which have my birth year carved.....so if the year on the bottle is correct......I would think that these bottle should be somewhere 40-50 years old I guess  Grin

Pin
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« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2016, 06:55:07 am »

Dear Cathy,
 
      If you've not absorbed the information from the almost 40 books you already own, what is the use of buying another book? I can't believe I'm saying this - books to me are 'holy' - but you need to absorb the knowledge you already have at your fingertips.

     Take ONE subject (Glass, Stone, Ceramic, Organic, Inside Painted, Metal), and learn it and don't buy ANOTHER single bottle, till you know and UNDERSTAND the material. It is not enough to be able to parrot the information and seem to understand it. You need to actually understand it. Once you really 'own' the information, buy yourself one bottle in that material. Then do it with another material. Don't feel you have to do it in the order I've written, but do it.  
This way, you have less to remember at one time.

    The Jade, and the three Chalcedonies are very nice for examples made between 1980 and 2010, but they were made to sell to collectors who thought they were getting late 18th C. - mid 19th C. examples made for collector-users in Qing China.
Giovanni is correct, but he and I are 'purists' - the bottle needs to have been made for use - it is at base a utilitarian object.
That is why the ones still made today for actual use in Mongolia are valid to me (at least to give out snuff in Synagogue on Sabbath and Holy Days), but bottles NOT made for use are not.

   But you see that Charll and Tom have other views. They are right for themselves, as Giovanni and I are right for ourselves. That is why I suggested, when we first started corresponding, that you needed to define yourself as a collector.
'Pretty' (in the eyes of the viewer, obviously) objects which look like genuine Chinese snuff bottles; or genuine Chinese snuff bottles, made for use between 1640 and 1900 (although there are also a number of Ming vessels, mainly in Nephrite jade, reused as snuff bottles in Qing).

   Best,
Joey
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« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2016, 07:00:58 am »

Dear Pin,

     If they are 40-50 years old, that is the period of the [anti-]Cultural Revolution. I know of a superbly carved pale mushroom coloured chalcedony snuff bottle, which my close friend B.W. in NYC owns.
 
     I would have sworn it was 18th C., but it has a landscape with a power station and power lines on it, and incised calligraphy with quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong! It was made as a gift for a special 'Foreign Friend' of the PRC.

     But if there is no CR connection, I'd doubt it was made between 1966-1976 (ie., 40-50 years ago).
Best,
Joey


Hi Cathy :

Both the bottles are not too bad IMO, esp the first bottle. I do have a bottle that probably came from the same source which have my birth year carved.....so if the year on the bottle is correct......I would think that these bottle should be somewhere 40-50 years old I guess  Grin

Pin
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Joey Silver, collecting snuff bottles since Feb.1970

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« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2016, 09:16:35 am »

All,

Just to clarify.  The three agate bottles posted by Cathy are relatively new in my opinion; i.e., post 2000 to present.  These are currently being made by the droves in China (presumably).  There are a few select dealers on ebay that are listing this type of bottle for sale 10 to 20 at a time.  They have also been showing up at secondary/minor auction houses in recent years.  Some are of very good quality both in material and workmanship, and are worth collecting in my opinion, just as you would collect a modern interior painted bottle.

Giovanni, yes there is a concern that such bottles may be electronically carved partially by machine, but I'm not going to jump to that conclusion quite yet.  If I am going to pay $60 to $200 US for the raw stone material as a mineral collector, I'm more than willing to pay the same for nicely carved bottle made from the same material.

Also, it comes down to finishing of the interior.  Is it just well hollowed with obvious drill marks or is it well hollowed with smooth contoured walls and polished.   

Charll   
 
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« Reply #15 on: September 21, 2016, 09:38:34 am »

Dear Charll,
the bottles that I am referring to are very well finished inside, they looks almost the same than the outside.
Kind regards
Giovanni
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« Reply #16 on: September 21, 2016, 10:09:46 am »

I bought the agates from an I.M. Chait Gallery Auction

I've seen what I think are modern reproductions for sale, but they tend to look dyed, the carving is simple, and they are usually not carved on both sides.

Joey - you had already said you thought my jade piece was old.  Now everyone is devaluing this jade that I paid a great deal for and that has provenance!

I do not think it's middle quality or a reproduction.

I will take them all to an appraiser and post the findings.

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« Reply #17 on: September 21, 2016, 10:37:31 am »

Dear Cathy,
I am with all others ,and what all the members said  here is  gold for a new collector. I still love to see the comments from all the veteran collectors, it still reminds me all the mistakes I have made, and how I am become more mature on collecting.
I dont think that you need to ask for some other  appraisers , since we all together can make the best appraiser in the world , and that is not a joke.

Steven
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« Reply #18 on: September 21, 2016, 10:50:37 am »

Dear Steven,

I do need an appraisal on my jade.  On one post it's deemed a late 18th early 19th example - and on another post it's deemed a middle quality modern reproduction.
The provenance (if it is to be believed) dates it's ownership to the 60s.
Which do I believe?

I will be in Boston soon and will have access to some top quality experts there - if not in Boston then in New York.

Everyone on this forum encourages inquisitiveness and they also say that sometimes you have to see the piece in person to make a final determination, and so I don't think anyone would say it's not wise to get an appraisal.

Wink
Cathy
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« Reply #19 on: September 21, 2016, 11:03:00 am »

It is COMPLETELY useless. C-O-M-P-L-E-T-E-L-Y. Try and you will see, you will become crazy. But do not try only one, try more than one and you will see that you will have many different opinions. Nothing better than the whole competency of a Forum like this one, as Steven said, or for example Gotheborg concerning porcelain. And note that we too can be wrong sometimes, being the big problem the fact taht we are judging by pictures. But to hear "an appraisal", despite his advantage of being able to handle the piece, is much less reliable. Because you may be lucky and find the correct one with the correct answer (a rare coincidence), but then you hear another one and you have a different opinion. Then? Who is right?
Your bottles are modern, all them, sorry; I am not a great expert but it is evident. Have you ever handled an old one? If you handle an old one, you will see the difference.
Kind regards
Giovanni
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