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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IV  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2011: Lot 75 

Lot 75

 
   

Lot 75
Treasury 7, no.1520 (‘Hidden Dragon’)
HK$175,000

A carved peach stone 'Eight Immortals and God of Longevity ' snuff bottle

Peach stone; well hollowed, with a concave lip and a protruding concave foot with natural serrations around the rim; carved with a continuous rocky landscape design with floating formalized clouds, pine, and other trees and foliage, in which two scholars are seated playing weiqi on a natural rock table, their attendant standing in front of it offering up a cup of wine, with another sage strolling in the distance attended by a young servant, and with the God of Longevity seated on a cloud surrounded by the Eight Immortals, with the head of a mythical beast emerging from behind one; the shoulders with a band of formalized waves beneath the clouds of the main design
1760–1860
Height: 5.64 cm (including original stopper)
Mouth/lip: 0.77/1.27 cm
Stopper: peach stone; carved with a dragon emerging from formalized clouds to grasp a flaming pearl, the integral collar carved with a band of formalized wave design; original

Provenance:
Unidentified dealer, Shanghai (1933)
Ko Collection
Christie’s, London, 12 June 1972, lot 163
Harriet Hamilton
Chimiles Collection
Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd (1996)

Published:
Hamilton 1977, p. 23, no. O.114
Jutheau 1980, p. 137, fig. 3 (the image reversed)
Treasury 7, no.1520

This is the largest known of all peach-stone snuff bottles, and spectacularly one of the best. The stone has obviously come from the mother of all peaches, probably from the large variety that grew in Shandong province. It is also among the most convincingly early of bottles carved from these stones and could well date from the Qianlong period. Many years ago, when Moss made enquiries among the Chinese dealers in Hong Kong as to the source of peach-stone carving in China, he was told that it was mainly a Beijing art form, particularly relying on the larger stones that were a speciality of Shandong province and readily accessible to Beijing carvers. Smaller ones were also carved, however, possibly more often in the south.

The carving here is impressive, as is the sculptural quality of the many figures depicted. Even on so tiny a scale, the immortals who surround the God of Longevity are each recognizable by their attribute, although one of them can only be identified by default.

The original stopper is a considerable bonus here and equally well carved, probably from the same massive stone. Its subject, however, is difficult to identify until correctly orientated. At first glance, viewed from the same vantage point as the bottle, it seems to be a jumble of random rocks and clouds above the formalized-wave band at its base. It was not made to be viewed from that perspective, however. It fulfils its role as a matching stopper adequately, but is intended to be viewed independently, when the stopper is removed. Looking down upon it from above, one suddenly spies the dragon’s head and its front legs reaching upwards, claws clasping a flaming pearl as the clouds part. It is that final flourish that confirms that we are not dealing with an ordinary work of art here; this comes from an artist who took his art seriously.

For an extremely unusual, double-gourd-shaped peach-stone snuff bottle from the Blucher Collection, see Moss 1971a, p. 95, no. 144. It is of similar quality and may well be from the same hand. Two other unusual peach-stone bottles have integral ivory necks, feet, and mask handles (Deng Zhong’an 1993, no. 9.1, and Wang Guorui and Wang Tongyan 2005, p. 271). For a spectacular double-gourd-shaped peach-stone bottle carved with the Eight Horses of King Mu, see Hugh M. Moss Ltd 1976, no. 145.

 

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