The Liddell Collection, London.
Messrs. Bluett, London.
Mrs. Alfred Clark.
Christie's London, 18th June 2002, lot 175.
The present snuff bottle is a fine example of the exceptional quality of carving typical of the Suzhou school. It appears that no other bottle of this exact type has been published. The white relief is skillfully carved to form a self-contained rockwork ground, and the black inclusions are cleverly used to depict the figures, highlighting areas of detail and creating an impressive display of depth and texture.
The inscription on the reverse, unusually carved within a raised panel, is an excerpt from the well-known Shupu, "The Treatise of Calligraphy", composed and written by the great calligrapher and calligraphy critic Sun Guoting c. 687 AD. This text, written on a scroll of almost 9 metres long has become a classic within the critical writings on the art of Chinese calligraphy, and is itself a fine example of art.
A snuff bottle with inscriptions quoting the section immediately following the quotation above, also signed by Shixiang, in the Monimar Collection, is illustrated in Clare Lawrence, Miniature Masterpieces, London, 1996, no. 66. See two other examples signed by Shixiang, one in the Seattle Art Museum, illustrated by Bob Stevens, The Collector's Book of Snuff Bottles, New York, 1980, no. 433-434; and the other from the Schoen Collection, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 1st May 1994, lot 901. Compare black and white jade bottles of similar high-relief carving in Moss, Graham & Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles: The Mary and George Bloch Collection, nos. 126, 130 and 131.
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