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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part III  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 25 May 2011: Lot 3 

Lot 3

 
   

Lot 3
Treasury 3, no. 409

An aquamarine ‘cicada and gourd’ snuff bottle

(‘The Imperial Cicada and Gourd Aquamarine’)

Aquamarine; reasonably well hollowed, carved in the form of a gourd growing from a vine, with leaves and tendrils, the bottom of the gourd serving as a natural foot; carved in relief with a butterfly and a cicada
Probably imperial, 1760–1840
Height: 5.6 cm
Mouth: 0.47 cm
Stopper: tourmaline, carved to suggest a double-gourd shape

Lot 3 Provenance:
Christie’s, Hong Kong, 2 October 1991, lot 1200

Published:
Kleiner 1995, no. 302
Treasury 3, no. 409
Exhibited:
British Museum, London, June–October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

Lot 3 Commentary
For the emergence of aquamarine as a material for snuff bottles after the Qing occupation of Chinese Turkestan in 1759, see Sale 2, lot 16. Fruit- and vegetable-form snuff bottles were a staple of mid-Qing imperial snuff-bottle production , as were cicadas.

The stunning material here is as fine and gem-like a colour as one can expect in something the size of a snuff bottle, particularly in the area from which the cicada is carved. It is also of a popular imperial form. There is another clue, however, as to its imperial provenance. The cicada and one large leaf are carved, as a subtle cameo, from darker material, visible in the illustrations but more obvious in the hand. The stone is of two distinct tones of colour, and the darker area has been brilliantly isolated as the insect. This relates directly to the use of two-toned tourmaline in a small series of imperial wares of the late Qianlong period and provides another link with the court and the late Qianlong period although, again, we have allowed for a later date to accommodate the continuation of Qianlong style under his immediate successors.

There is a related bottle illustrated by Perry 1960, no. 95, in green beryl. It is also of fruit-form. Aquamarine and beryl differ only in colour and are otherwise the same mineral and would have been carved by the same workshops, those that also produced other hardstone bottles, including jade, of course.

 

Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=1029&exhibition=8&ee_lang=eng


  
  

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Hugh Moss |