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Fig. 1. A rare documentary lacquer snuff bottle. Fuzhou, dated 1881 but possibly 1821. Fig. 2. An inside-painted glass snuff bottle. Painted by Sun Xingwu. Fig. 3. A shadow agate snuff bottle, 1740–1860. 26 NEWYORK AUCTIONS REVIEW: Autumn 2016 Michael Hughes B ritish auctioneer Will O ’ Reilly seemed to be enjoying himself in the box at the Bonhams sale of snuff bottles from various US collections, Monday September 12, 2016. Although the audience that had gathered didn ’ t seem to fully understand his brand of humor—the audience was primarily non-Western, with only a smattering of Brits—he managed to keep the affair lively and bubbling along nicely. His quips appeared to be self-satisfying, if not playing to the crowd particularly well. At first glance of the catalogue, there did not appear to be any particular order to the sale in terms of materials or chronology. The sale, however, was broken into owner sections, which unfortunately was not made clear in the catalogue. A simple one liner— for instance, “ Property from the Elsa Glickman Collection ” —in the same font size as the opening line of the first description in the catalogue was all that indicated the provenance of an entire group. There was no mention anywhere of Glickman ’ s biography, which would undoubtedly have added great interest. She was a quirky, fascinating woman. Although cluttered in layout, her Chinese Snuff Bottle Mania: Stories of Collectors, Trade, Intrigues and Gotham ’ s Auctions is jam packed with information on New York collectors. That said, the bottles at Bonhams were superbly catalogued and beautifully laid out. The sale opened with some nice examples of different media, all selling within their estimates. The first bottle of significance was a rare, slightly damaged inscribed Fuzhou brown lacquer example, with archaistic-style seal script on each face followed by the signature Zimei and the cyclical date xinsi, probably dating to 1881, but possibly the earlier cycle, 1821 (lot 9007, fig. 1 ). Hugh Moss, in his extensive series on the Mary and George Bloch Collection, identifies the artist Zimei (Purple Charm) as possibly a woman, who may have produced bottles for commercial purposes but may also have been a well-educated female member of a circle interested in scholars ’ objects. 1 The cursory inscription on the Glickman bottle, lacked self-assurance and mirrors the workmanship on a coconut shell bottle in the Bloch Collection bearing the same signature and date of 1871, or possibly 1811. A slight lifting of the lacquer at the center of one main face was undoubtedly the reason that the final price of $3,750 was, though above the high estimate, not higher still. It sold to Moss. An admirable inside-painted glass bottle was the next item of interest (lot 9016, fig. 2 ). It was painted by Sun Xingwu, a dedicated follower of Zhou Leyuan, working prior to 1900. A Beijing resident, he used Zhou as his jumping off point, often appropriating his signature but generally painting in his own style. His bottle depicts a figure riding a mule, with an assistant following behind, set in a snowy, wintery landscape. The catalogue does not identify the scene or identify the main figure on the mule. Two rather similar scenes with a small difference in detail are to be found in the well-known historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, by Luo Guanzhong. The difference is the object, either a gourd or a spray of prunus, held by the assistant. A gourd identifies the rider as Huang Chenyan, while the prunus points to Meng Haoran. In Bonhams’ defense, the penmanship of this area was hazy at best, thus making identification difficult. It is the opinion here that it depicts Huang Chenyan.

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