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Chinese snuff bottles fetch sparkling prices at Bonhams in Asia Week 2015
An enameled and slip-decorated Yixing snuff bottle (1800-1880) sold for: $37,500. Photo: Bonhams.

NEW YORK, NY.- Asia Week 2015 at Bonhams New York was opened with the auction of Fine Chinese Snuff Bottles from the Collection of Barbara and Marvin Dicker, which took place at the Madison Avenue galleries on March 16. In a packed saleroom, the collection fetched far above its high estimates – with 97 per cent sold by lot – to make a total of $708,438.

The Dickers began collecting Chinese snuff bottles in the early 1980s, fascinated by their intricate carvings, beautiful natural materials, and the symbolism of their decoration. After becoming enamored with the antique Chinese pieces when hunting for Asian art for their home, they were active in the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society for 30 years, both serving as directors of the Board.

The top lot was a wonderful enameled and slip-decorated Yixing bottle (1800-1880) which soared past its pre-sale estimate of $5,000-7,000 to make $37,500. High-quality Yixing bottles, particularly those with such beautiful slip decoration, have become quite scarce and are popular on the market with new participation from Mainland Chinese buyers. The skillfully crafted rounded-rectangular form of the bottle, with recessed panels on the flattened sides bearing the slip decoration, features paired dogs and doves that are symbols of conjugal bliss.

A beautifully carved cameo agate bottle from the Suzhou School (1780-1860) also performed brilliantly, far outstripping the estimate of $8,000-12,000 to fetch $32,500. The bottle, carved from translucent grey and russet-toned stone, depicts Liu Hai, the Chinese god of wealth and prosperity, who carries a double-gourd and broom as a three-legged toad follows behind him and a bat takes flight above.

Another highlight was a yellow jade bottle (1750-1820) estimated at $8,000-10,000, which achieved $32,500 after heated bidding on the telephone and in the room. The Dickers had a particular fondness for their collection of jade bottles, and this example was one of the finest. Its rare color, a hue of yellow which the Chinese call ‘steamed chestnuts’, makes it a particularly desirable piece.

Other jade bottles made impressive prices, demonstrating the popularity of the wonderfully tactile stone. A carved white jade bottle (1750-1850) made more than four times its high estimate of $7,000, selling for $28,750. Designed as a cloth bag tied at the neck with a ribbon, it is decorated with delicate carvings of bees and a monkey climbing towards the opening of the bag.

Dessa Goddard, Vice President and Director of Asian Works of Art at Bonhams in North America commented, “Bonhams continues to be a leader in the Chinese snuff bottle market, and we are committed to our mission of bringing fine private collections to the market for the international collecting community. We hold world record prices in this field, and are committed to both our buyers and sellers in promoting this marvelous and unique miniature art to new and seasoned collectors. We are delighted that the Dicker collection achieved such a wonderful reception today!”

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