OBJECTS FOR THE SCHOLAR'S DESK, Hong Kong 2023
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Playthings

A CARVED AGATE ‘CARP’ SNUFF BOTTLE

QING DYNASTY (1644-1911)

LENGTH (EXCLUDING STOPPER): 7.6CM

The variegated pebble is modelled in the shape of a carp with its tail curled. The striated stone is of a milky-white tone mottled with black and grey inclusions and russet-brown flecks, reminiscent of the natural colour of a carp. The stained bone stopper is in the form of a double gourd.

The carp fish ( 鯉魚 liyu ) carries a rebus meaning “abundance year after year” ( 年年有餘 niannian youyu ), and was therefore often used as a motif symbolic of abundance and prosperity. A celadon jade ‘double-fish’ snuff bottle from the Qing court collection and now in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Snuff Bottles 故宮 博物院藏文物珍品大系:鼻煙壺, Shanghai, 2002, p. 155, pl. 236. Also among the Museum collection is a Qianlong-marked agate bowl made from a stone of remarkably similar colour, texture and patterning, illustrated in Gugong zhenbao 故宮珍寶, Beijing, 2004, p. 146.

There are two labels on the box, one inscribed with the characters reading Rongzai tang 容在堂藏 (“Collection of Tolerance Hall”), and the other dated Jiawu shuxia yu Jingzhai nanchuang 甲午暑夏於靜齋南窗 (“Composed at the Jingzhai [Quietude Studio] at the height of the summer in the jiawu year”).

清代 瑪瑙雕鯉魚鼻煙壺