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Modern Art of Snuff Bottle

Snuff bottle appreciation: Golden autumn by Zhang Zenlou

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

Before starting the article, please note" Not every item is the artwork " !!! As Peter A Bentley suggests in the paper, " Contemporary schools of Inside Painting", he argues a discrepancy between artistic and commercial inside painting. All snuff bottle collectors need to have this understanding while collecting the beautiful miniature inside painted snuff bottle. The craft is different from the art. And importantly, an "artist" in the genre of Inside painting is very rare. Most of them are merely craftsmen.

The story behind the title, Golden Autumn

Zhang Zenglou is one of great pupil under Wang Xisan. This in an excellent work we selected as an topic for our weekly posts. The title of this work is Golden Autumn. Neverthelss, it’s worth a while to mention that the word "golden" in the title. This word usually evokes people of the golden scene in autumn at first thought. The plants gradually turn yellow and form a classic fall landscape after the summer begins to slow down. However, in ancient Chinese philosophy, this understanding is not entirely correct. Golden autumn comes from its roots in the theory of "five elements". In the theory, metal, wood, water, fire, and earth are regarded as the five basic elements that comprised the primitive world. Based on this theory, autumn belongs to metal (Gold). Therefore, it is commonly called golden autumn since the ancient China. Of course, the impression on golden fall is another reason that the Chinese continue to use the word "golden" to describe autumn.

Art appreciation on the picture in the snuff bottle

In this work, the artist depicts mountains and rivers in autumn from near to distance from a first-person view. The mountain structure is painted with black ink as the main structure of the painting. With various shades of gold and orange colors, this painting is to be delineated the prosperous and lively color of autumn from a different angle, unveiling the romantic side of autumn. However, the author does not appraise autumn as a touch of melancholy. By contrast, he yearns the elegant temperament of the autumn, as well as a calm and comfortable emotion. The blue embellishment of the front painting balances the harmony of the whole painting so that each part will not be excessively prominent.

On the reverse side, the painting with artist's signature " 小宣 “ is painted with a first-person view. Yet, the author appreciates the autumn scenery from a different perspective. The artist intently uses blue to divide the picture into two sections, supplemented by gold and orange. These separate sections express distinct meaning from the artist. Compared to the calmer and cozier front, the reverse shows the interaction among various elements, such as rocks, mountains, rivers, cruise ships, etc. Overlapping elements increases the visual tension, showing the different author’s mood on another side for autumn. Many contradictory feelings and opposite existences are within the artist's spirit. This controversy constitutes the uniqueness of this season for the Zhang Zenlou. In turn, the conflicting scene in the lower part underlined the vastness of the valley in the upper section. Perhaps, the upper side is the way the author releases his melancholy and sorrowful relief, from conflict to harmony and ease.

It is worth observing that the author cleverly matched the rock crystals at the bottom to create a sense of “near and far” view. It strengthens the sense of space. The artist uses this excellent skill as an extension from the bush in the near scene to the distant scene, valley, further making this painting in the miniature carrier reflecting the sense of breadth and grand. As seen the picture below.

In conclusion

Throughout the entire work, the various elements are properly matched. The proportions and spaces of the painting are exhibited at the right level. Each line, area, light, shade, and texture are handled in great detail. The wood color of the stopper is also well matched the theme of the work and put the finishing touch on this snuff bottle. This work is indeed a masterpiece of Zhang Zenglou.

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