The World in a Bottle in the World

8 Taiping Rebellion watershed into the twilight decades of the Qing dynasty ( fig. 8 ). The subject is typical of the nineteenth century; it is a Song dynasty copy of an inscription taken from an ancient bronze jue. It would have been available to a nineteenth- century potter through a collection of inscriptions published by Ruan Yuan 阮元 (1764–1849) in 1804 and again in 1879 . It reads 木[禾?] 父子工癸 ; we shall not attempt a translation, because even Ruan Yuan and his Song dynasty source differ on the correct interpretation of the text. 8 Ruan Yuan ’ s name for the vessel precedes the inscription in clerical script; it is followed on the left by “ Engraved by Xinzhou at the beginning of summer in the bingshen year ” ; the foot is also impressed with a seal bearing the artist ’ s name, Xinzhou 心舟 . The date is best interpreted as corresponding to 1896, for we are surely dealing with the Yixing potter He Xinzhou 何心舟 , who is known to have worked with the calligrapher Mei Tiaoding 梅調鼎 (1839–1906). 9 Moreover, the transfer of ancient bronze and stone inscriptions onto other works of art gathered momentum as a fashion from the Daoguang through to the end of the dynasty, and many of the known examples of snuff bottles, Yixing teapots, bamboo wares and other art forms date from the mid- to late century, and this bottle would fit within that trend. Within a few years of the end of the Taiping Rebellion, both demand He seems to represent the beginning of this trend; his works can be identified first in the late Jiaqing reign bearing a reign title (suggesting he was working at the imperial kilns) and subsequently bearing his own name, suggesting he had shifted to private production to accommodate the new patrons. The porcelain carvers who emerged during the late Jiaqing and early Daoguang are well known to snuff bottle collectors. Wang Bingrong 王炳榮 , represented here by two bottles bearing his mark on their bases, was one of the most prolific of the few top carvers ( fig. 7 ). He represents those artists who were not members of the educated elite themselves but reflected the tastes of the non- imperial elite classes, often by imitating literati painting styles. Most importantly, the artists, and their patrons, recognized that they deserved to rise above the traditional anonymity of the craftsman. The works of some of these carvers feature inscriptions in ancient scripts that could be deciphered only by the highly educated specialist. The same is true of a group of Yixing wares, some produced by scholars, others by potters responding to scholarly taste. They produced signed wares during the nineteenth century, and several of these are also dealt with in Treasury 6 . 7 Another bottle from the Bloch group serves here to ease our way past the Fig. 7. Two snuff bottles bearing Wang Bingrong ’ s mark on their bases. Fig. 9. A Guangxu-marked glass bottle from the Bloch Collection. Fig. 8. A Song dynasty copy of an inscription taken from an ancient bronze jue .