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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IV  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2011: Lot 78 

Lot 78


Lot 78
Treasury 5, no.861(‘Pillar of the Establishment’)

A pale aquamarine-blue glass snuff bottle

Transparent, pale aquamarine-blue glass; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding rounded footrim; carved with eight vertical convex lobes, the shoulders with a band of formalized lingzhi heads and pendant beads, the base with a band of formalized lotus petals; the foot inscribed in seal script Qianlong nian zhi (‘Made during the Qianlong period’)
Imperial glassworks, Beijing, 1750-1799
Height: 5.82 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.62/1.48 cm
Stopper: glass, of ‘official’s hat’ shape with integral finial and collar, carved with a band of formalized lotus petals; original

Robert Hall (1996)

Sin, Hui, and Kwong 1996, no. 24
Treasury 5, no.861

The Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong, October 1996

The well-known group of vertically lobed, elegantly thin imperial bottles from the late Qianlong period is discussed under Treasury 2, no. 355, and in Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 164. Although the majority are in chalcedony, others in glass are known. No. 350 in the J & J Collection (ibid.) is very similar to this one. While no visible evidence is discernible, this bottle must have been carved from a solid block of glass rather than blown.

The obvious intent with the series of aquamarine glass bottles, of which several are recorded, was to imitate the material itself. This raises the question of why none from the group is in aquamarine itself, since the same period saw the production at the palace workshops of a group of bottles in this semi-precious stone. Aquamarine was found in abundance in Xinjiang, apparently, and may have been sent to the court as part of the regular tribute after 1759—and perhaps even more reliably in the 1739 – 1754 period of active trade between the Zungharian empire and the Qing empire. Perhaps somewhere out there, a real aquamarine version is waiting to be discovered.

The reign mark is credible, and similar to those appearing regularly on the chalcedony versions. It is a bonus to find the original stopper still in place, since it is our view that matching stoppers on bottles intended to have contrasting ones seldom work successfully. Stoppers of this shape, however, do allow exceptions to the rule, owing to their independent sculptural quality.

When published in Sin, Hui, and Kwong 1996, the terminal date on this bottle was given, in the traditional manner, as the end of the Qianlong reign, but the use of the Qianlong reign title was continued on certain imperial works of art until the death of the emperor in 1799.

For a very slightly more bulbous version, also with the original stopper, see Sotheby’s, London, 7 June 1990, lot 107.


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Hugh Moss |