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Chinese Snuff Bottle Discussion Forum 中國鼻煙壺討論論壇
October 18, 2018, 08:07:34 pm
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Huge Ivory Column Bottle - intricately carved

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Author Topic: Huge Ivory Column Bottle - intricately carved  (Read 1439 times)
cshapiro
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« on: January 17, 2017, 07:31:59 pm »

This is a fairly recent acquisition, and I have debated posting it here because I know there are some people who are against buying ivory at all. To those of you, I apologize in advance. Please don't be offended. I post it as a work of art.

It is difficult to photograph, and I could probably take better pictures in the daylight, but here's what I have.

It's a large bottle, measuring 9.3cm high by 7cm wide. It's heavy, and the carving is very detailed even down to the faces.

It has some damage, and has been repaired. I don't know if you can tell but there's a very large crack down the bottle on one side that has been skillfully repaired.

I don't know the bottle's age, but I can say that the bottle makes me feel like it should be in a museum somewhere.



« Last Edit: January 17, 2017, 08:03:32 pm by cshapiro » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2017, 09:24:05 pm »

Maybe it is just the pics, but I do not see any cross hatching to indicate this is ivory.
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« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2017, 10:41:03 pm »


George,

Have to really look hard at the base picture of the bottle.  On my 24" screen I do see what appears to be cross-hatching. 

Cathy,

If indeed ivory I too would value this bottle as a nice addition, and as a decorative piece given it's size and apparent weight.  Heavy (?) infers that it is not well hollowed.  But given the extent and detail of the design I would understand why.

Charll

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« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2017, 11:12:48 pm »

Thanks you guys! George I will try to take a better picture of the Schreger lines in the daylight. They are there, I just can't get a good picture at night.

Charll, thanks! It's not well hollowed - there is only a wide straight line going down the middle of the bottle so definitely intended to be displayed and not used. 

I know that I should probably stay away from ivory especially now with Cites, but I couldn't resist the carving on this one.

I would be interested to get opinions on whether it is of Japanese or Chinese origin, and ideas on the age. My guess from looking at others would be that it's Chinese origin.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2017, 01:03:24 am by cshapiro » Report Spam   Logged

Cathy
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« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2017, 04:34:21 am »

Hi Cathy,

I like it, pretty well carved. Is it a procession of people moving up around the bottle carrying gifts ?

It was a carved ivory card case that got me interested in Chinese items, I couldn't believe the amount of work that had gone into it. They had some value then but I've noticed prices climbing of late. I have a few I've collected in ivory, wood, tortoiseshell, shell inlays etc. Also some Japanese carved ivory items, netsuke, okimono and pots.

It's seems the answer of whether ivory snuff bottles were made in China or Japan is an open debate as the Japanese carved items that would go to China in a Chinese style to suit that market. The highly detailed work on the card cases I've never seen suggested as Japanese. While the Japanese were highly skilled at carving ivory their best okimono etc have a different feel to the work on the card cases. By that I mean there is a difference between items carved by the Chinese for themselves and by the Japanese for themselves but either were skilled enough to copy the work of the other if needed.

Regards, Adrian.   
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« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2017, 07:26:47 pm »

Yes Adrian, the question of the origin may never be answered. The Japanese ivory items at the turn of the century seemed to mostly be polychromed, which gives them away. Without the polychrome, it might be impossible.

I think the people are all going about daily activities - there are a few carrying food, others gathered around a table, others in conversation. If anything I would think they were preparing for a celebration or feast of some sorts.

George I tried to take a better picture of the base, plus took a picture in my hand to show scale. Wink

I do hope to find out more about this bottle.

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« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2017, 10:51:21 pm »

Thanks Joey! It's disappointing that it's not older. But I see what you mean about the ivory wrist rests. I just went and looked them up and found some really exquisite ones. Thanks for the reference. 
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Cathy
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« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2017, 09:47:53 am »

Dear Cathy,

I'm adding a picture of one of my card cases as numerous of these deeply carved card cases show similar scenes to your bottle although I don't seem to be able to call up your pictures to compare.

These card case are always described as Chinese/Cantonese and tend to be dated from 1850 to early 1900's so it could be possible your bottle is older from this respect although from purely a snuff bottle perspective then Joey has the knowledge that may fit with a later date.

You also get Japanese Ivory card cases but they are very different to Chinese ones. Japanese ones tend to have lacquer and shibayama work over a normally flat ivory surface. So the distinct workmanship of each Country was preserved to appeal to Western buyers of these card cases who may not have wanted something that was simply Asian, but either Chinese or Japanese.

Both Lilla Perry and Bob Stevens (who borrows from Lilla Perry when talking of ivory bottles) suggest the confusion as to Chinese/Japanese origin should let the owner of a bottle decide on it's origin.

Lilla Perry took all her ivory bottles to people to try and clear up the question of Japanese/Chinese origin. One said they were all Chinese because the faces, costumes and calligraphy were Chinese while another said why can't they all be Japanese because if they were created for the Chinese market they would have been done with Chinese faces etc by Japanese craftsmen. Bob Stevens encountered similar alternating views.

Robert Kliner's (RIP) book, Images of Asia, is unclear to me. "Ivory snuff bottles of a very high quality were also made in Japan, often inlaid with lacquer panels. These bottles were inspired in general design and conception by the Chinese imperial ivory snuff bottles and they usually bear inscribed Qianlong reign marks." Does this mean the Japanese made any absolute copies of imperial bottles or did they make them distinct from any Chinese bottles with lacquered panels or by other means?

The polychromed bottles are all pretty much accepted as Japanese, certainly the figural ones. But they too are distinct from Chinese bottles by being polychromed even if they were carved with Chinese faces etc.

From my limited, but slowly growing, library of snuff bottle books there is never any direct mention of Chinese ivory bottles having inlaid lacquered panels or being polychromed. None of the bottles in Bob Stevens book that are said to be Japanese are plain ivory, all are lacquered or polychromed.

Perhaps the Japanese never sought to make indistinguishable copies of Chinese bottles but always did something to set them apart as Japanese ? Are there any 100% definite Chinese ivory bottles that are polychromed or lacquered or with panels inset into ivory?

Regards, Adrian.







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cshapiro
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« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2017, 01:16:49 pm »

Adrian,

Thanks so much for that information and the picture of the card case! It's breathtaking! I see that you have been quite a collector of Chinese art, and will have much to contribute here!

I apologize about the pictures. They are on my server so as not to take up space here on the forum, so when I deleted posts the other day - they got deleted too. I have put them back up.

Quote
Robert Kliner's (RIP) book, Images of Asia, is unclear to me. "Ivory snuff bottles of a very high quality were also made in Japan, often inlaid with lacquer panels. These bottles were inspired in general design and conception by the Chinese imperial ivory snuff bottles and they usually bear inscribed Qianlong reign marks." Does this mean the Japanese made any absolute copies of imperial bottles or did they make them distinct from any Chinese bottles with lacquered panels or by other means?

Do you think Kleiner was referring to these types of bottles?
https://new.liveauctioneers.com/item/37648461_two-lacquered-ivory-snuff-bottles-japanese

I am fascinated with the ivories, and have a few unusual ones that I would like to share with you to get your opinion.

I have five like this one, all bought together in a lot - that have different designs but the same mark on the bottom. I have been told they were made for the Thai market.



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« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2017, 05:43:17 pm »

Hi Cathy,

The bottles in your link are very similar to ones in Bob Stevens book, illustration 762 and 794 to a degree as well. I don't think Kleiner was referring to that style which have a Japanese feel to them and Hugh Moss refers to Japanese made ivory bottles as becoming increasingly Japanese over time as they moved on from simply copying Chinese designs. In terms of inlaid lacquer panels I would think Kleiner was more likely to be referring to a bottle as in illustration 757.

My confusion in what Kleiner says is he essentially says two things. The earliest, very high quality Japanese ivory bottles "often" had inlaid lacquer panels. So not all had inlaid lacquer panels, some were just ivory. He then refers to "These" bottles as following imperial design and with Quianlong marks. So imperial marks and designs for both just ivory and also ivory with inlaid lacquer. 792 in Stevens book is Japanese ivory with lacquer panels and a Ch'ien-lung mark. 757 is ivory with inlaid lacquer and a Ch'ien-lung mark but is not said to be Japanese but could it be because neither Kleiner, Stevens, Perry or Moss (in the book mentioned below) mention Chinese bottles as having inlaid lacquer, the only reference is Kleiners one to Japanese bottles.

Hugh Moss wrote Chinese Snuff Bottles from the Collection of the Marquess of Exeter 20 years earlier than Kleiner wrote Images of Asia. The Marquess of Exeter collection is important in having numerous Imperial marked ivory bottles.

There are quite a few polychromed bottles, all of very good quality and some with imperial marks. Could all these very high quality polychromed bottles be Japanese because again no-one refers to any manufacture of Chinese polychromed bottles, only Japanese ones with Stevens speaking to Japanese craftsmen who confirm it.

We know the Japanese were skilled enough to carve in a Chinese style and Moss refers to this in his book. I can also look at illustration 0.7 in his book and say the carving of that (polychromed and with a Ch'ien-lung mark) and say it is uncannily reminiscent of carved Japanese netsuke. Would the Chinese carve an imperial bottle in a Japanese style.

Another thing that makes me wonder if the Chinese stuck to plain ivory is that they consider ivory as second only to jade as a material so why would they disfigure it by covering it in lacquer or polychrome.

Ah, the things that go through my mind when I'm walking my dog.

I can't say much about your Thai bottles other than I like them and no mistaking the Schrenger lines on them.

Regards, Adrian.

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« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2017, 04:44:15 am »

Dear Joey,

Yes, I agree in your dates especially as it hasn't been hollowed. Had it been hollowed then it could suggest it was older depending on where it was made due to the differences in the quality of work from different areas or towns known to carve ivory.

I think you gave Cathy some good advice about buying the Thai taste bottles. Sadly we don't see the number of bottles coming to market as America does and the Brexit exchange rate, import duties and high postage costs to buy from American auctions make it expensive at present.

I'm sorry to add this as it's not about snuff bottles but is relevant to Chinese workmanship. 

A feature I love about the card case I pictured is that, despite the fact both sides of it have different scenes on them, you cannot put the lid on the wrong way round because the design at the point where the lid meets the body is exactly the same across the join on both sides. It isn't hard to do but shows a wonderful attention to detail and it's the same on all 4 Chinese card cases I own.

Are you aware of any meaningful text written to suggest Chinese made imperial ivory bottles were polychromed or lacquered (either over ivory or in inlaid panels) ? 

Regards, Adrian.
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« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2017, 05:07:21 am »

Joey and all

Having been in and out of Thailand since 1999 I would like to add that most if not all Thai local made snuff bottles date to very late 1800s and after. Any other claim to the contrary is a story... this got started by King Chulalongkorn who was the first Thai king to be open to foreign influences other than what was already imported by the rather important Thai Chinese community. Any other claims to the contrary is just made up ...

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chulalongkorn
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« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2017, 12:23:43 pm »

Thank you all for this great information about ivory bottles.

Adrian, I see what you mean about #757 in Bob Stevens book. If Kleiner is correct then we should be able to find some examples carved just in ivory. The closest I can find is #0.10 in The Marquess of Exeter book. Even though it's in lacquer, I also think #0.28 might be an example.

If I had to compare my Thai bottle to a bottle in Stevens book, I would compare it to #766. From my limited experience these types of bottles don't come up to auction very often. I was lucky to get them. I was actually at the auction and there was a computer glitch where they had to stop online bidding. If it weren't for that, I think these bottles would have been out of reach for me. Wink

Pat, I was told these bottles were made in China for the Thai market, but since there is so little information I don't know what to think. I don't have access to pictures from John Ault's collection but will see if I can find a book.
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« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2017, 04:29:22 pm »

Dear Joey,

Thank you for your information, it fits with my feelings on the very  good quality polychromed ivory bottles and lacquered ones. My references are a bit dated so perhaps the understanding of these bottles has moved on anyway.

Another point raised by Stevens was that the Japanese made some coral snuff bottles but were unable to hollow them as well as they wanted and decided to stop making them and return to making more traditional Japanese items. The Marquess of Exeter book makes reference to an ivory bottle of a man holding a scroll (0.18) with polychrome enamels which was hollowed through a panel in the base. Another polychrome enamel figural bottle is the same (0.17) as is a plain ivory bottle (0.10) which stands out from others in being of flask form with inset circular panels.

Had the Chinese developed tools that allowed them to hollow bottles for the use of snuff that were beyond tools that the Japanese had then available as they had no real need to hollow items ? I would be interested to know how well hollowed the polychrome enamelled imperial bottles are in the Marquess of Exeter collection as it might add more to suggest a Japanese manufacture.

Dear Cathy,

I love the lion dogs on your Thai market bottles and was going to say they looked wrong because they have closed mouths. Chinese lion dogs have open mouths, Japanese ones (Shishi dogs) can have either closed or open mouths depending on if they depict a lion or a lion dog. Korean ones have closed mouths. Thai ones (Singha) I can't really comment on but I assume they were done to fit their market.

I have come close to a couple of larger ivory table bottles like ours recently but missed out so well done for being in the right place at the right time.

Regards, Adrian.

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« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2017, 12:08:11 am »

Joey

Indeed, no conflict on what we (and the late John Ault) stated.  I just wanted to clarify that the local "thai" snuff bottle production was something from the last quarter of the 19th century.  I should have said from the reign of King Chulalongkorn (aka King Rama V) onwards (1868-1910), and perhaps later... before that it was all imported from China.  This applies in particular to the lacquer burgaute we see that are in Thai taste. 

Before that the Thai would also use metal (tin, pewter) containers of which I have posted some before...and still do for all kinds of ailments, perceived or real, using herbal powder they also sniff to this day.   Some of the Thai Chinese community still use snuff here. I once mentioned a CEO client of mine doing so.
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« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2017, 12:20:03 am »

I think after the death of Rama V most of the lacquer burgaute production ceased .. most of this was for royal household use/gifts etc. and might have even been commissioned as such or done by artisans for him or on behalf of.  However, the metal containers continue to exist in almost same form as before ..
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« Reply #16 on: January 23, 2017, 08:32:32 am »

Cathy,

Thank you for posting the large ivory snuff bottle. I do keep a few ivory works of art among some of my
organic material-based bottles and other Chinese works of art.
It is unfortunate the stopper on your bottle is not original ( it looks like those fitted on tourist pieces we also
see in Singapore ).
I am posting a picture I snapped from the reference book, " Snuff Bottles from China " by Helen White, on
behalf of the Victoria and Albert Museum ( page 284 ). You will see the similar concept between your bottle and the one in the V&A museum.
The Museum piece is a polychrome one made in Canton China.

Regards,
Inn Bok
Singapore ( the island is busy awaiting the Chinese New Year celebrations this coming weekend )


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« Reply #17 on: January 23, 2017, 08:34:32 am »

Sorry for the wrong photo in the second picture !

This is the correct one.

Inn Bok
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« Reply #18 on: January 23, 2017, 08:35:39 am »

oops, miss out the picture again !


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« Reply #19 on: January 23, 2017, 11:20:55 am »

http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2014/snuff-bottles-hk0519/lot.1030.html

The above lot from part viii of the Bloch collection is one example of a change of opinion from Chinese made to Japanese made after it was recently seen that the carver had made mistakes in the story the bottle represents. In this instance plain non polychromed ivory.

Regards, Adrian.
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