Chinese brushpot bamboo

by Jesper Offersen

Dear C.A.C.P.

I read Andrew's question about age determination of brushpots and Peter's answer. Andrew spoke about varnish, I have not come across varnish for brushpots before but have wondered why some old ones (Christie's, Sotheby's) looks so shiny also where the top layer has been carved away. Others seems not varnished at all, wonder if some along the way make them "nicer" by polishing them up, you some times see stuff in the cracks, meaning perhaps it's polish build up. Well I have a brushpot myself that I like too know more about specially if the quality is good and how old age could be. Looking around I almost feel it's too well carved to be true...

Thanks in advance for any response

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Brushpot age.
by: Jesper Offersen

Dear Peter,

Thank you for your answer. On this brushpot from Sotheby's I think one can see what you mean by fine recesses on the cross cut surfaces. Look at the rim and the tiny dots. It's like small pimples on the surfaces that one can feel and see. The rim on my pot has the same feature and knowing about plants I thought it must have taken at least some time for the material to shrink like that leaving the water bearing stems exposed. Mold, not sure if the grey'ish matter is a kind of mold, but the pot was duld to begin with and had some grey'ish matter to it, that could be brushed off. Now it has a soft sheen which I guess coms from gently buffing up the old wax. I see some pots with high sheen and think they have been buffed up with later European wax (you see it often in the creases) as you say. The original old wax I guess would only give a restricted sheen and would not build up in the creases as I sure no creases was present when it was made...

Best regards

by: peter

If you want to know the age of your brushpot, which is made of bamboo, then it is a bit difficult. Basically, I know only two age signs of bamboo itself. One is that the surface of the uncarved bamboo may have split (not necessarily deep), just a fine surface crack. Not sure though how old it must be to show that. 100 year old items show age signs. The other is that the cross cut surface of items with considerable age is not smooth. The fibers have lead to a surface with fine recesses... Sorry, but it is difficult to describe. I myself had to see it to understand it.

The carving in your image looks much like those of the 20th century items I have.

>wonder if some along the way make them "nicer" by polishing them up

Sure, all (almost all) wooden items that have no paint are usually covered with wax. This may be the case with bamboo too. Traditionally, Chinese wooden items do not use varnish, but are waxed with a method that differs from the method used in the west. They melt the wax with a heating tool and thus it fills all the crevices, even those which the paste wax used in the west could not penetrate. I'm sure this is also done with bamboo, and polishing items often makes them shine.

I'm not an expert with bamboo, though. There might be other methods I do not know. Varnishing would decrease the perceived value of Chinese antiques, I think.
Did your brushpot develop mold?

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