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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IV  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2011: Lot 96 

Lot 96


Lot 96
Treasury 5, no.857 (‘Li’s Luohan Link’)

An inscribed yellow glass 'Bodhidharma' snuff bottle

Translucent yellow glass; with a flat lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding flattened footrim; carved in low relief on one main side with Bodhidharma seated in meditation on a woven mat on a rocky ground, his empty shoes in front of him, gazing at a rock face with a vine-entwined bare branch growing from it, with a raised oval seal in positive seal script, Qiufang (‘Autumn boat’), the other main side with another figure standing with a double gourd at his back on a grassy bank looking down at the branches of a pine tree low in the foreground, inscribed in relief seal script Yannian yishou (‘Prolong one’s years and increase longevity’), the narrow sides with mask-and-ring handles
Yangzhou, 1830-1890
Height: 5.14 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.51/1.16 cm
Stopper: mother-of-pearl; glass collar

Claar Collection
Parke-Bernet Galleries Inc., New York, 16 September 1971, lot 12
Avon Collection (prior to 1970)

Treasury 5, no.857

This is one of only two known carved monochrome yellow glass bottles from what we used to refer to as the Li Junting school and have now determined to be a late-nineteenth-century school probably located in Yangzhou (see Moss and Sargent 2011). The other example is in the Franz Collection, Hong Kong.

That this school or workshop produced monochrome glass bottles alongside its more standard range of cameo-overlays does not come as any surprise. Private glassworks would have produced a range of both plain and carved glass in response to the demand for both, and any workshop able to produce a fancy overlay can easily produce carved monochromes and, indeed, plain bottles. There are other monochrome bottles from the school. Lawrence 1993 illustrates two sides of what must be the same bottle in caramel-brown glass (p. 5, fig. 3, although the text suggests they are two different bottles); p. 5, fig. 4, is of ruby-red glass (better illustrated in Hui, Polak, and Sin 1991, no. 217) and p. 5, fig. 5 is described as ‘honey-coloured glass’, but is also in Friedman, 1990, no. 12, where the deep, caramel colour is shown. Another ruby-red monochrome was in Christie’s, London, 10 June 1999, lot 201, while a sapphire-blue glass example with the common school theme of cranes, a tally, and a rock rising from the ocean, was offered by Christie’s, New York, 2 December 1993, lot 363. It is interesting to note that the ruby-red and imperial yellow bottles are all decorated with a range of subjects of a type not common to the normal output of the school, including Buddhist or, in some cases, possibly Daoist figures either seated in meditation or standing They appear to have been produced as a small group, perhaps for a single patron. Although it is easy enough to identify carved monochrome examples from the school, identifying the undecorated examples presents greater problems. The turquoise-blue glass bottle in this collection, Treasury 5, no. 783, is firmly attributed to the school on the basis of the style of its mask-and-ring handles, but in their absence it would never have occurred to us to attribute it to Yangzhou. It seems likely, for instance, that a small series of uncarved overlays with cinnabar-red on turquoise blue are undecorated bottles of this school (see for instance an example from the Guo’an Collection, Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 30 October 2000, lot 705, now in the Schaefer Collection). Both form and colouring are typical of the standard range of Yangzhou school bottles, but without any decoration it is impossible to be sure.

The seal that appears on this bottle appears also on one other recorded bottle from the school (Hugh Moss Records). There is a strong possibility that this is the seal of a playwright named Xu Qiufang. Like Li Yunting (Li Peisong) and Li Weizhi (Li Peizhen), he was a native of Zhenjiang, on the south shore of the Yangzi. He was considered a Yangzhou poet, however, and poems by him on some sites in Yangzhou are extant. Xu’s dates are unknown, but one of his plays (unfinished and never performed) was based on a book that described incidents ‘seen and heard’ from 1834 to 1873; there was a lithograph edition published in 1900. A few sources list him as a Republican-period figure, so he could have been a close contemporary of the Li brothers, whose names appear on bottles from the same workshop.


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Hugh Moss |