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Incised Calligraphy Porcelain Snuff Bottle by Zhou Hongbin. Old or modern?

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Author Topic: Incised Calligraphy Porcelain Snuff Bottle by Zhou Hongbin. Old or modern?  (Read 372 times)
EK
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« on: October 02, 2016, 10:05:10 am »

Hi all,

I would like to seek your opinion on this porcelain bottle of oval form covered with a white glaze and incised; the front with 3 figures on a sampan in a riverscape, the reverse with a twenty-one-line calligraphy of over 500 minute characters. Signed Hongbin with seal (Zhou?), dated Ren Xu (壬戌) which corresponds to 1922. Height : 5.9 cm

This was one of the first few bottles I bought when I started my collection in 1985. Apparently, at that point in time, not much was known about Zhou Hongbin other than he was also known as Zhou Honglai from Nanjing and had specialized in incising miniature inscriptions on snuff bottles, ivory screens and ivory plagues. From the small number of publications I had, I found only four signed bottles by Zhou Hongbin. They were all glass and dated between 1893 and 1909. As with every collector, I was thrilled at the prospect of having a bottle of some significance – in this case, a Zhou Hongbin bottle dated 13 years later than his last known dated work.

In November 1986 I submitted it with two other bottles to the ICSBS for review. The other two bottles were published in the ICSBS Summer 1987 Journal, but this bottle was omitted. Prior to that, in December 1986, I received a letter from Mr. John Ford (then President of the ICSBS) informing me that this bottle would be deleted but he had asked one of the ICSBS members to research the artist and to include it as one of the case-study pieces.

My activity in collecting snuff bottles came to an abrupt end in 1990 when my interest in collecting Buddhist art took priority. Thus, I don’t know if this bottle was ever featured in subsequent instalment of the Journal. Further information I gathered from joining this forum several months ago is that the artist usually incised glass, only occasionally on porcelain but never on jade of hardstone bottles, and that he was active between 1900 to 1920. So, I am now not as sure as before that this bottle dated 1922 isn’t a modern one. I would appreciate any inputs from the experts here.

Cheers,
Edmund  Smiley


* Zhou Hongbin 1922 - 5.9 cm (1).jpg (22.45 KB, 539x718 - viewed 29 times.)

* Zhou Hongbin 1922 - 5.9 cm (2).jpg (33.58 KB, 540x720 - viewed 23 times.)

* Zhou Hongbin 1922 - 5.9 cm (7).jpg (71.4 KB, 539x718 - viewed 17 times.)

* Zhou Hongbin 1922 - 5.9 cm (8).jpg (76.84 KB, 542x722 - viewed 15 times.)

* Zhou Hongbin 1922 - 5.9 cm (9).jpg (64.17 KB, 542x722 - viewed 14 times.)

* Zhou Hongbin 1922 - 5.9 cm (11).jpg (50.4 KB, 957x718 - viewed 10 times.)

* Zhou Hongbin 1922 - 5.9 cm (4).jpg (22.64 KB, 538x717 - viewed 14 times.)

* Zhou Hongbin 1922 - 5.9 cm (5).jpg (22.55 KB, 538x717 - viewed 17 times.)
« Last Edit: October 02, 2016, 11:43:56 am by EK » Report Spam   Logged

Edmund

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« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2016, 12:07:31 pm »

Dear Edmund,
do you mean that the inscription is incised? Are you sure that it is not painted?
Kind regards
Giovanni
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EK
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« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2016, 12:15:08 pm »

Hi Giovanni

It is definitely incised on both sides. Many of the characters were faded when I bought the bottle and so I had re-inked the surface. I think it look better since. Wink

Edmund
« Last Edit: October 02, 2016, 12:17:39 pm by EK » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2016, 12:50:13 pm »

Impressive!!
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George
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« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2016, 03:19:11 pm »

Wonderful bottle Edmund, and thank you for sharing it !
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« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2016, 05:19:52 pm »

Dear Edmund,

Very interesting story. 1980s is a golden period to be collecting.
You can still write to John Ford as he is still in ICSBS and I can imagine who the other ICSBS member/researcher is.

I would have preferred for the bottle not to be inked as now it looks so new. My porcelain Zhou HongLai is signed off with 1897 during GuangXu period. Was thinking of taking it out and compare.

Cheers,
YT
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« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2016, 05:27:30 pm »

Dear Edmund,

      First, welcome to the Forum!
The bottle looks superb, except for the crack visible on the first line between the 9th and tenth characters from the right. Is it an actual crack in the bottle, or is the bottle soft paste (which shows lots of fine surface glaze cracks)?
Best,
Joey
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« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2016, 12:10:20 am »

Hi Edmund

Welcome to the forum and thanks for sharing the Zhou Hongbin's bottle.

It is not common to find Zhou's bottle on porcelain. He usually incise on white glass bottle.

I have a similar incised porcelain bottle posted under this post:

http://snuffbottle.smfforfree.com/index.php/topic,1769.100.html

Regards.


Richard
« Last Edit: October 03, 2016, 12:12:39 am by richy88 » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2016, 02:28:41 am »

Hi Edmund,

Firstly, welcome to the forum!

I'm a little surprised to read that the ICSBS knew so little about Zhou Hongbin in late 1986 as to place his work under case-study pieces. I know of at least one collector who acquired a white glass bottle by this artist in Hong Kong during the 1960s. And there were a number of other bottles of his in circulation well before the mid 1980s.

Zhou Hongbin's active period is usually described as being 1900-1920, based on the dates of his documented bottles. That does not exclude the possibility of other dated examples showing up which are outside this time-frame.   

All best,
Tom
« Last Edit: October 03, 2016, 02:34:17 am by Wattana » Report Spam   Logged

Tom
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« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2016, 08:02:09 am »

Dear Tom,

     I thought Zhou Honglai / Zhou Hongbin 's dates were 1890-1925, but again, you are right that it is not 'chiseled in stone'.
     He was well enough known by the 1980s, that I don't understand either, that John Ford would not post the bottle.
Best,
Shana Tova,
Joey
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« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2016, 10:48:09 pm »

My thanks to you all for your comments and the warm welcome I received. I am feeling much at home here.

Firstly, I think I need to share the attached copy of Mr. John Ford’s letter of 30 December 1986 because it would clear any doubt that the ICSBS knew less than we thought they knew about Zhou Hongbin in late 1986. He did mentioned that a lady member would be doing the research article. I wonder who she might be. Martha M. Renk would be my guess as I noted that she did a lengthy review of a finely incised glass bottle by Chow Ye-pin (ref. ICSBS Volume VII No. 3, Sept 1975).

I have re-inked the bottle to facilitate better evaluation by  the ICSBS. I have read that Martha Renk did the same to her bottle. I was also hoping that someone could translate the calligraphy. Unfortunately, my Chinese reading ability is limited only to those characters that also appear on mahjong tiles. The inking was done with washable ink, a reversible process. I could have used a paste of incense ash which would give the bottle a softer appearance, compared with the harsher ink-black tone seen in the photos, but it would mean compromising on clarity.

As to the question posed by Joey, I do not have enough experience with porcelain to tell if the crack is in the porcelain or on the soft paste but I would guess the former. I am attaching another photo for your assessment, Joey.

Richard, Thanks for your link to your incised porcelain bottle. It is indeed impressive. I wish I have a red stopper just like yours to match mine.

YT, I am looking forward to seeing your early Zhou Hongbin bottle. It seems that, with regard to snuff bottles, incised calligraphy artists were not as prolific as IP artist.  Btw, I am sure you would like my bottle better after I have given it a good thumbing. ;-)

Cheers,
Edmund


* Zhou Hongbin 1922 - 5.9 cm (13).jpg (51.39 KB, 532x709 - viewed 35 times.)

* edmund2.jpg (363.15 KB, 1245x848 - viewed 13 times.)
« Last Edit: October 03, 2016, 11:54:25 pm by George » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2016, 12:15:26 am »

Dear Edmund,

Wow!! The bottle looks much better with your last photo and I can see all the incisions. Now I'm tempted to inked mine... Hahahaha.
My bottle was posted here previously http://snuffbottle.smfforfree.com/index.php/topic,3114.0/msg,41937.html
This bottle cost me US$17k so it will be difficult to agree with the comparison of IP as only 3 middle age IP masters can fetch higher price.

I have been reading around and like Tom, I can only find articles that leads to 1920. Do you have a photo of the Chinese date?

Cheers,
YT
PS, glad to meet another fellow SG.  Wink
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« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2016, 12:22:58 am »

Dear Edmund,

One more thing... The porcelain has a crack line and not soft glazed. Sorry.

Cheers,
YT
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« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2016, 12:52:52 am »

Dear YT,

The Chinese date is at the top of the first line of calligraphy.

Yes, I can see that Zhou Hongbin bottles are commanding high prices. Too bad mine has a crack. I found that Bonhams had sold two porcelain bottles by the artist on 15 March and 15 September 2014 respectively, but there was no mention that they were dated. The first bottle, also with a scene of 3 figures on a sampan (picture below), was sold for $10,000.

If you would excuse me for saying, I think your porcelain bottle looks fatigue  and urgently needs to be rejuvenated by a transfusion of black ink!  Wink

Cheers,
Edmund


* Bonhams 17 March 2014 Lot 8032.jpg (18.89 KB, 504x480 - viewed 17 times.)
« Last Edit: October 04, 2016, 06:01:55 am by EK » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2016, 05:55:04 am »

Dear YT,

The Chinese date is at the top of the first line of calligraphy.

Yes, I can see that Zhou Hongbin bottles are commanding high prices. Too bad mine has a crack. I found that Bonhams had sold two porcelain bottles by the artist on 15 March and 15 September 2014 respectively, but there was no mention that they were dated. The first bottle, also with a scene of 3 figures on a sampan (picture below), was sold for $10,000.

If you would excuse me for saying, I think your porcelain bottle looks fatigue  and urgently needs to be rejuvenated by a transfusion of black ink!  Wink

Chees,
Edmund
Dear Edmund,

I am not sure if the dating on the top right means the year made Or does this date have to do with this story/poem. But I am reluctant to go back another 60years as this porcelain bottle shape looks to be from the 20th(will wait for Giovanni, our resident porcelain expert to confirm this fact)

The inking will have to wait. Personally it was bought in this condition as I was attracted to it.

Cheers,
YT
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« Reply #15 on: October 04, 2016, 06:00:43 am »

Dear Edmund,

      I did not realise that you were the Edmund K. who has been a Singapore member of the ICSBS since 1986, although I see you've not been a member since 2004.

     I am sorry that your bottle has that crack. I was hoping it was soft paste, and that the crack was part of the typical surface cracking of soft paste porcelains. But it is still a beautiful example.
And I think there is nothing wrong with inking that is reversible.
My late mom of blessed memory, also could read the mahjong tiles! I've never figured out how this Chinese gambling game became a serious interest of middle class Jewish ladies in North America in the 1950s and 1960s!
But a bunch of them even brought it to Israel! My mom, after her arrival in Jerusalem in 1973, quickly found a Mahjong 'league' here, and played at least once or twice a week.  Grin

Best,
Joey
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« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2016, 06:13:34 am »


I am not sure if the dating on the top right means the year made Or does this date have to do with this story/poem.


Dear All,

A few years ago I did some research on micro engraved bottles for a fellow collector who owns a Zhou Hongbin example. Here is an extract. As you will observe there are dated bottles as late as 1924. I should add that these are all incised on milk glass, not porcelain.

 1. Sotheby’s London, 24 April 1989 – the Eric Young Collection Part III, lot 60
dated by the auctioneer as c.1900, and with a 7-line inscription on the reverse.

2. Christie’s New York, 18 October 1993 – the Reif Collection, lot 241
c.1924, signed Jing Yi Ju Shi, with seal Wu Yin, and has a 12-line inscription on the reverse from the Preface to The Orchid Pavilion, by Wang Xi (321-379 AD), revered as the sage of calligraphy. 

3. Raymond Li, A Glossary of Snuff Bottle Rebus
see front cover and p.15, nos. 22 and 22-A, for an example of identical elongated bottle form, engraved with a scene on the obverse or two figures in a boat near a rocky bank with trees, the reverse with a 13-line, 320-character excerpt from a famous classic of Chinese literature, Homeward (or The Return) by Tao Qian.
Obverse inscribed, over the scene, The Old Field of Home
Signed, Zhou Hongbin

4. Robert Hall, Chinese Snuff Bottles II
see p.82, no.63, dated Nanjing, 1900; incised with a 9-line poetic inscription on the reverse.

5. Robert Hall, Chinese Snuff Bottles IV
see pp.89-90, nos.88-89. Two examples, the second of which has on the reverse a 10-line excerpt from the Lanting Preface, written by Wang Xishi in 353 AD; signed Hongbin, summer 1901. The base (flat) has a neatly incised 4-character mark “The precious treasure of Xin Quan” (plus a collector’s seal).

6. Robert Kleiner, Chinese Snuff Bottles, A Miniature Art from the Collection of Mary & George Bloch
see p.195, no.137, for another of identical elongated bottle form. The obverse with a scholar and attendants strolling in a mountain landscape, the reverse inscribed with Su Shi’s Second Ode to the Red Cliff, in a 12-line arrangement, and continues on the obverse above the main subject, followed by the signature Hongbin, and seal Zhou

7. Hugh Moss et al, The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle: The J&J Collection
see p.661-662, no.406. Another elongated bottle, the reverse with an 8-line prose text entitled Preface to Poems Composed at a Spring Evening Banquet Held at the Peach Garden, written by Li Po (701-762 AD); the recessed flat base incised in seal script Xuejiao Shanfang (Snowy Plantain Mountain Retreat), signed and dated 1900, by Zhou Honglai.

8. Christie’s Hong Kong, 25 April 2004 – the J&J Collection Part I, lot 868
obverse incised with a scene of a solitary scholar wandering through a mountain landscape, the reverse with 4 lines of archaic seal script, followed by a 2-line dedication, and signed Hongbin.

Tom
 
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« Reply #17 on: October 04, 2016, 06:22:30 am »

Dear Tom,

     Respect! (As Ali G., AKA Sasha Baron-Cohen would say!  Roll Eyes Grin)
Serious documentation.
Best,
Joey
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« Reply #18 on: October 04, 2016, 06:29:11 am »

My late mom of blessed memory, also could read the mahjong tiles! I've never figured out how this Chinese gambling game became a serious interest of middle class Jewish ladies in North America in the 1950s and 1960s!
But a bunch of them even brought it to Israel! My mom, after her arrival in Jerusalem in 1973, quickly found a Mahjong 'league' here, and played at least once or twice a week.  Grin

Dear Joey,

I didn't know that Mahjong is so popular out of the Chinese community that even the ladies in Israel are so fond of it! I only heard years ago that some schools in America introduced it to their students as an extra-curriculum activity to train their thinking... Well, as a Chinese, I'm glad to know all that, as much as I'm glad that westerners are fond of our arts.

Some Chinese say that Mahjong is one of the greatest Chinese inventions of all time and that it is an essential cultural heritage of China... Smiley

Best,
Samson
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Samson - a young new collector desiring knowledge
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« Reply #19 on: October 04, 2016, 07:34:50 am »

Hi Edmund

After careful examination of your bottle, it appears to be undated.

The date at the beginning of the inscription is part of the article Ode to the Red Cliff, Chibi Fu (赤壁赋), written by Song poet Su Dongpo (苏东坡).

It began with "The Autumn of the year Ren Xu (壬戌之秋)....", which corresponds with the year 1082 of the Song Dynasty.

Although it was signed at the end with the name, no date was inscribed.

For your reference.

Regards.


Richard
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