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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IV  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2011: Lot 90 

Lot 90


Lot 90
Treasury 5, no.1014 (‘Message on a Stick ‘)

A three-colour glass overlay 'fisherman' snuff bottle

Opaque cinnabar-red, transparent emerald-green, and translucent caramel- beige glass, the green with scattered air bubbles of various sizes; with a flat lip and flat foot made up of elements of the design; carved as a double overlay with some carving in the ground colour with a continuous rocky landscape scene featuring a woodcutter on one side and a fisherman on the other
Yangzhou, 1830-1890
Height: 5.69 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.65/1.34 cm
Stopper: coral; pearl finial

Sotheby’s, London, 23 March 1988, lot 236

Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 135
Treasury 5, no.1014

Hong Kong Museum of Art, March-June 1994
National Museum, Singapore, November 1994- February 1995

The colour combination here is one of the most common for these multiple overlays, but with the addition of a delightful touch in its use - an unusual detail that reflects an imaginative conceptual approach. The eye, moustache, and mouth (possibly intended alternatively as a small beard in at least one case) of both figures are in the red of the upper plane, while the face is carved from the green, middle plane. The remainder of the carving is equally well considered, and with the impressive carving in the ground plane, it becomes one of the more exciting carvings from the group. A stylistic link with the nearby city of Suzhou may be suggested by another feature common to this multiple-overlay group, attributable to Yangzhou. One of the most distinctive styles there was that of the Zhiting school, which, although the name is misleading since Suzhou encompassed a variety of styles, is still widely known among snuff-bottle connoisseurs as the Suzhou school (see Treasury 2, nos. 366- 379). The style exhibited in the carving of the formalized cloud bands round the shoulders is almost indistinguishable from that of the Zhiting school, and their purpose is identical: to facilitate the transition from a symbolic, usually continuous, busy genre or mythological scene to a plain neck. Rock carvings on the Yangzhou glass overlay are occasionally found in a style resembling that of the Zhiting school, with figures, pine trees and other details rendered in similar style, given that the former is usually in much lower relief. Since the Zhiting school was earlier, we may assume the prevailing flow of artistic influence to have been from Suzhou to Yangzhou. The works of the Zhiting school would already have achieved fame locally and also elsewhere in the empire by the late eighteenth century. If we imagine this bottle to be in deeper, multi-plane relief, and in agate rather than glass, its resemblance to a Zhiting school carving would be remarkable. Clare Lawrence noted this phenomenon some time ago (Lawrence 1995a, p. 4) and if we should ever be obliged to revise our attribution to Yangzhou for this group of bottles, we may not have to look too far across the Yangzi for an alternative possibility.


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Hugh Moss |