AN INSIDE-PAINTED GLASS 'TWO BADGERS' SNUFF BOTTLE MA SHAOXIAN, 1904
Chinese Snuff Bottles in the Collection of Mary and George Bloch, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1997.
Christie’s London, 1999.
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NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
This example is early in Shaoxian’s career, and already his inscription is very much like Ma’s. Given a few more years of practice and an incentive to try hard, there is no reason why Shaoxian could not have done many of the inscriptions that currently go by his uncle’s name. See, for instance, Sale 7, lot 114, for an inscription that for most people would pass as coming from the hand of his uncle.
This subject was first painted by Ma Shaoxuan in 1897 (see Sale 8, lot 1135) and became a family studio standard, painted under both artist’s names from time to time.
In Chinese art, two badgers (huan 獾) symbolize marital happiness (huan 歡).
The poem on the other main side was composed by Han Yu 韓愈 (768–824).
The streets of Heaven after a shower are like kumis, rich and slippery;
The colour of grass can be seen from afar, but disappears upon approach.
Indeed this time of spring is the best of the whole year,
Much better than when misty willows fill the Imperial Metropolis.
The ‘streets of Heaven’ are the streets of the capital; tiny blades of grass create a stretch of green when seen from afar, but they are still too sparse to colour the ground when seen close up. In late spring, the scene of green willows in the mist gracing the greatest metropolis in the world in the ninth century may be expected to excite the ordinary poets, but Han Yu takes a contrarian’s position and states his preference for the wet transition from winter to early spring.