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A wood bottle

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Steven
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« on: July 10, 2012, 11:00:17 pm »

I was watching this one,and placed a low bid on it, sadly didn't win it.

I like the dragon motif, quite real, but condition is not good, anyone know the possible date of it?

Steven


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« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2012, 11:44:07 pm »

Steven,

I would need the bottle in hand to inspect both the exterior and interior in order to speculate on the age of this one.

Charll
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Charll K Stoneman, Eureka, California USA, Collector Since 1979.

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« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2012, 12:19:04 am »

Sorry Charll,

I Guess we don't have this chance, I was so cheap to not bid more.Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2012, 04:09:07 am »

Steven,
   It looks like an Imperial design of an archaistic dragon. It could be a repro, or could be original; like Charll, I'd need to hold it and examine it to know.
   If original, it could be anywhere between ca.1750 - ca. 1900, but probably earlier rather than later, though the design was usually pairs of flanking archaistic dragons.
   I had a number of  inkstone SBs and a white jade SB as well, and I still have an example in clear glass on multi-coloured glass, ex. Monimar collection (the late, beloved, Claudio Gentili, z"l), all attributed to the Imperial palace workshops, and 18th C. dating. Also, compare with the design on the elegant bottle in "Dragons", #2...
  Sorry I can't be more exact in the dating aspect.
Joey
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« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2012, 09:57:24 am »

Steven,

It has a charming robustness to it, and looks to be well used. Wood bottles, for whatever reason, are surprisingly uncommon when compared to bottles made of other materials. It could be due to the fact that wood is more susceptible to damage, or simply that it wasn't considered a valuable enough material to take special care of - I don't know.
The example in your photo, if I were to judge it purely from its overall shape and form, fits comfortably into the Daoguang period, but, as Joey says, it could be somewhat older.
Impossible to be more specific without handling it, so I guess now we'll never know!

Tom
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« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2012, 10:19:56 am »

Thanks all for your comments, its a very small bottle, only 4.5cm, I was told normally the smaller the bottle is the older( ofcoz that is not the always the case), but its a fine example of the wood bottle.

I am kind of regret that I should have gone a little more , the winning price is only $45.00.

Thanks again for all the inputs. Learning something new everyday.

Steven


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« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2012, 02:43:36 pm »

Tom,
   Again, with more careful examination, you spotted detail I had overlooked. Yes, it does look very like bottles from Daoguang, but could be a little later, and, because there was not that much difference in that type of bottle shape between late Qianlong and Daoguang, a little earlier. Thus my first suggestion, 1750-1900, I would change to probably 1780 - 1860, with a possibility of being as late as 1900. If it is not a totally modern copy. It doesn't look like it, but could be.
  Steven, A pity you didn't get it, but you already know that, sorry.
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« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2012, 12:27:37 am »

Joey,

I concur (UK-speak for 'agree'!) with your dating assessment. The possibility of it being a modern copy is interesting, but to me seems unlikely. Adding artificial age patina is one thing, but adding areas of damage goes against the grain of any copier.

However, this does raise another issue about wood snuff bottles which has puzzled me for some time. I occasionally come across one that is very similar in shape and decorative detailing to bottles in other materials. For example, the one Stephen illustrated reminds me of similar looking examples in nephrite jade as well as duanstone. I myself have a wood bottle beautifuly carved with 16 children and 4 ladies in a garden, which is almost exactly like examples in moulded porcelain and ivory.

Perhaps the wood ones are just copies, but maybe it's the other way around. I am wondering if these wood bottles were not 'trial runs' by workshop apprentices, using a cheap and easily carved material to practice a design, before commiting to nephrite and other more valuable (or more difficult to carve) materials.

In the case of porcelain (itself an inexpensive material), the wood bottle may have been the original "positive" used to form the "negative" in segments, which were then used to create the moulded porcelain end product.

It would be great to know if anyone else has any views on this topic.

Tom  
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« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2012, 04:32:49 pm »

Tom,
   I'm based in Jerusalem, Israel most of the year, but spend each summer in my late Georgian home in north County Wexford, Ireland.  This winter, for the first time in almost 6 years, I'll be spending a couple of months during the winter, in a rented beach house on Lanikai beach on windward Oahu, Hawaii.

   I don't know how much you know about forgers, but nothing that will sell a fake is "against the grain". Ask Steven re. the group of B&W porcelain SBs ostensibly fired and fused together in a kiln mishap. George posted it, and we figured out it must be a fake, made to fool a collector. 

  Yes, I compared it myself to white nephrite jade and inkstone (duanstone) examples, though they invariably had pairs of flanking archaistic dragons, whereas this example is asymmetrical in design. I agree that it looks 'right' insofar as one can judge from an internet image.

  Your thesis as to the wood examples being 'trial runs' before the object was produced in expensive materials, sounds interesting, although I wonder whether apprentices would be given work that could form the basis for objects to be made in "more valuable materials".

  Anyway, an interesting thesis. I don't know if I can concur before some serious contemplation is attempted; I'll have to sleep on it.  Wink

Best,
 Joey
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« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2012, 09:43:33 pm »

Joey,

I don't disagree with your comments about forgers using every trick in the book to fool the punter. That always applies when the stakes are high. However, in the case of this wood bottle, its value, whether appearing perfect & new or patinated & old is not going to be significantly different. So I stick to my guns that adding intentional 'damage' to this particular wood bottle would make no sense, as it would hardly make any difference to the value.

Looking forward to your further thoughts on wood bottles being used for 'trial runs'.....after you've had time to sleep on it, of course.

Tom
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« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2012, 11:09:45 pm »


Perhaps the wood ones are just copies, but maybe it's the other way around. I am wondering if these wood bottles were not 'trial runs' by workshop apprentices, using a cheap and easily carved material to practice a design, before commiting to nephrite and other more valuable (or more difficult to carve) materials.

In the case of porcelain (itself an inexpensive material), the wood bottle may have been the original "positive" used to form the "negative" in segments, which were then used to create the moulded porcelain end product.


Tom,

Very interesting insight, I have no experience on Wood and stone ware, but I don't think it could be the case that those wood bottle are trial runs by apprentices to practice the skills.

First of all, wood crafting and stone crafting are using totally different tools.
Second, the wood material can be expensive if you choose the very real wood, agilawood can be more expensive than gold.
Third, there are lot of cheap stone can  be used for apprentices to practice.

Just my 2 cents, can be totally wrong.Smiley

Steven
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« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2012, 12:10:58 am »

Thanks Steven,

What you say makes a lot of sense. Of course, the carving techniques and skills would be different for different materials. I needed to air my theory about trial runs, to see what you guys thought.

Tom
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« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2012, 05:55:46 am »

Tom,
   Are you saying that a totally, unabashedly modern wooden bottle would fetch as much as a genuine old, albeit slightly damaged 18th or 19th C. original? Sorry, I disagree. Most collectors would pay less than US$100 for a modern wooden snuff bottle; for a genuine 18th C. wooden example, in very good condition US$5-6 K; in damaged condition, maybe US$1-2K, possibly a bit more. That is 10 to 20 times the price! Sorry, I must stick to my guns, as well. But we won't fall out over it.  Wink

  And I agree with Steven - similar but different tools are used in each discipline; but, who says that you are not partially correct? Why could wood carvers not be commissioned to do examples in a cheaper wood, not in agilawood (whatever that is) or Zhitan or whatever, and that used as an example for hardstone carvers? There may well be some merit in that theory.

   Of course, we are thinking like cost-effective westerners; possibly in the Palace Workshops (and the design here, IS an Imperial design), there was no need to be cost-effective. Concepts of purity surrounding the Son of Heaven, may well have held much stronger sway (think of the efforts Ultra-Orthodox Jews go to, in their need to preserve food purity, or Kashrut, even though it is definitely NOT cost-effective). In other cultures, or even in other castes in the same culture, different priorities will have stronger or lesser influence.

  But, everyone, don't stop the theories coming in! They make us think harder, always a good thing. A great Rabbi I once studied with said that there are no stupid questions - just stupid answers, sometimes.

Shabbat Shalom,
 Joey
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« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2012, 08:29:40 am »

Joey,

I am relieved to know we can agree to disagree!

While still on the topic of wood bottles, I will post some pictures of a bottle in my collection (which I made passing reference to a few posts back) that is one of my favorites, but a total puzzle to me. I would really enjoy getting some opinions on it from other members. Unfortunately the image files are on the office computer, so I won't be able to do it until Monday now.

Have a good weekend.
Tom
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« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2012, 10:53:19 am »

Tom,
   Of course we can agree to disagree. And we all love seeing bottles we've not seen before, though it is harder to evaluate a bottle without seeing it 'live'.
Best, Shabbat Shalom, Joey
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« Reply #15 on: July 16, 2012, 02:23:41 am »

  Here is the wood snuff bottle I mentioned earlier, that appears to be almost identical to a series of molded porcelain bottles (showing 4 ladies and 16 children on a garden terrace).
  But it is a puzzle to me: why would anyone make such a finely carved copy in wood of a type that typically is made of porcelain or ivory?
  There is a well-known group of exquisitely carved ivory bottles that were long thought to be Imperial, and the 'originals' from which look-alikes were made in molded porcelain. It was only recently acknowledged that the ivory bottles came AFTER the porcelains, and were copied from them in Japan. Does my wood bottle fit into this category? From the lack of wear and patina I am guessing that it is a fairly modern bottle. Look forward to any thoughts you guys have.

Tom


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« Reply #16 on: July 16, 2012, 02:40:00 am »

I am just following along here, but can not help but comment to what a stunning bottle Tom !!
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« Reply #17 on: July 16, 2012, 03:54:57 am »

Thanks George,

  It is one of my personal favorites. I have been trying to find out if the 16 children with 4 ladies represents a story from one of the Chinese classics. Maybe Steven will know. Smiley  I have come across several molded porcelain bottles with the exact same scene, and am on the lookout for an ivory example, but haven't seen one so far.
  
Below are my research notes in connection with this bottle:-

Description: Boxwood snuff bottle of bulbous ovoid shape, finely carved with a continuous scene of sixteen children in the company of four ladies on a garden terrace; the slightly flared neck with a leiwan band, and a reeded edge to the raised foot. Wood stopper. Height (without stopper): 7.4 cm.

   Bottles made of wood tend to fall into two groups: those that are of a formal bottle shape, and ones which are sculpted into a three-dimensional figurative or plant form. Of the first group, with conventional body, neck and foot, these can be sub-divided into those that are completely plain, and ones with a lacquer finish onto which decoration is applied or etched.
   The example illustrated here fits into none of the above categories, being of a formalized shape with high relief decoration carved directly onto the wood. Such bottles are surprisingly uncommon [see note 1].  In fact the closest related bottles are a group of ornately molded porcelain ones of the Jiaqing period. These share a common form with high shoulders tapering to a small raised oval foot, and a flared neck on which is often found a key-fret or leiwan band [see note 2].  There is a group of ivory examples with apocryphal Qianlong imperial attribution, the designs closely matching these molded porcelains.  
   There are a few recorded examples of Jiajing-era moulded porcelain bottles bearing this identical subject-matter and configuration [see note 3], which lends support to the probability that both borrowed the design from a single earlier source [see note 4].  
   The origin of the subject-matter is unclear, but a similar scene with fifteen children and three ladies, on an imperial enamel-on-metal bottle in the Palace Museum Beijing, is described as depicting a ceremony of birthday celebrations [see note 5].  Compare also a stained ivory bottle of similar form, but a dissimilar scene of ladies enjoying the company of small children in a garden setting formerly in the Gerry Mack Collection [see note 6].

note 1:   see Robert Hall, Chinese Snuff Bottles No.III, commentary of no.86.

note 2:   see Bob Stevens, The Collector's Book of Snuff Bottles, nos.271, 273, 275, 276; also nos.755, 767, 776 and 784; see also Robert Kleiner, Chinese Snuff Bottles: A Miniature Art from the Collection of Mary & George Bloch, commentary of no.160, and nos.161, 254 and 256.

note 3:    for an unglazed porcelain biscuit version see Sotheby's Billingshurst Sale Catalogue, June 25th 1991, lot no.224.

note 4:   further recorded examples of this design in famille rose enamels on high-relief moulded porcelain of the Jiaqing period can be found in Hugh Moss June 1970 Catalogue, no.317; -ibid-, Snuff bottles of China, no.291; -ibid-, Chinese Snuff Bottles No5, p.52 for comment on a rare pewter-glaze example, -ibid- No6, no.C.63; see also: Rachelle Holden, Rivers and Mountains Far from the World, no. 130; Harriet Hamilton, Oriental Snuff Bottles, p.120, P-16; Sotheby's The Hunter Collection, NY, September 15th, 1998, lot no. 158 (Qianlong mark and period); and Sotheby's London, 16th November, 1999, lot 244.  

note 5:   see Masterpieces of Snuff Bottles in the Palace Museum, p.60, no.26.

note 6:   see Sotheby's The Gerry P. Mack Collection, October 25th 1997, lot no. 239.

--------------
 
  If it didn't look so new, I would have thought it was perhaps a cast for the mold from which the porcelain bottles were produced. But if that were the case there would have been no need to hollow out the inside.

Tom
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« Reply #18 on: July 16, 2012, 05:20:07 am »

Great bottle Tom.  Amazing detail to go through for carving a wood bottle. Never seen one like it.  Very special!
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« Reply #19 on: July 16, 2012, 10:11:09 am »

Hi Tom,

A Great bottle indeed, the 4 ladies and 16 children subject are very popular throught Ming period to Qing period.

Actually in chinese, its called "四妃十六子" which means "4 wives and 16 kids" . as you might know, the wealthy man can have more than one wife during the past in china, and people always like to have huge family  with many kids around, "四妃十六子" is a wish to have a big family..

Attached is a same subject of later qing dish, same subject..

I don't know if there is any specific story behind this, but the subject is well known and popilar during the past.

Steven


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