A white jade snuff bottle, 1750-1850. Suzhou School. photo courtesy Sotheby's
superbly hollowed, of rounded bulbous form resting on a small flat base, below a slightly tapered neck, well carved in low relief with a continuous scene of a figure seated by a double-gourd and a trigram-decorated censer emitting vapors spiraling upward and filling the grotto, the reverse carved with dramatic cliffs and rockwork issuing lingzhi, pine and wutong, the stone of a even white color with a russet inclusion incorporated into the carving of the figure; height 2 5/8 in., 6.8 cm. Estimate 60,000—90,000 USD. Lot Sold 110,500 USD
PROVENANCE: Christie's London, 5th July 1983, lot 435.
LITERATURE AND REFERENCES: Patrick K. M. Kwok, 'The Joe Grimberg Collection of Chinese Snuff Bottles', Arts of Asia, November-December 1993, p. 95, no. 24.
NOTE: One classic characteristic of the 'pictorial' mood of the Suzhou School is the use of the outer russet skin of the jade riverbed pebbles to highlight the design or carving. According to Yang Boda's study of 18th century jade wares, the use of this is directly attributable to the carvers of Suzhou. There were two diverse reasons for the use of the skin; one aesthetic where the effective use of this material gave a more realistic natural design with the skin used to depict the mountains and woods with the core of the piece usually white, depicting the rivers and waterfalls. The second reason was purely commercial, that during this time jade was valued and sold, even as a finished work of art, by its weight as well as by the quality of the material.
A Suzhou bottle of pale celadon tone featuring the same subject on one face, formerly in The Collection of the Stone Picking Studio (Cai Shi Xuan), was sold in our London rooms, 21st June 1995, lot 106. A similar white jade bottle, featuring a seated figure within a grotto, is in The Crane Collection, www.thecranecollection.com, no. 112.
Sotheby's. The Joe Grimberg Collection of Chinese Snuff Bottles, 14 Sep 10, New York www.sothebys.com.