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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IV  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2011: Lot 56 

Lot 56


Lot 56
Treasury 3, no. 423 (‘The Hallett Early Turquoise’)

A turquoise snuff bottle

Turquoise; well hollowed, with a flat lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding rounded footrim
Probably imperial, probably palace workshops, 1700–1780
Height: 4.08 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.74/1.23 cm
Stopper: coral; gilt-bronze collar

Hugh M. Moss Ltd.
Paula J. Hallett
Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (1986)

Kleiner 1987, no. 176
Treasury 3, no. 423

Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

This is one of the loveliest of turquoise bottles, both materially and formally. One or two of the earliest pieces of turquoise known are of this green colour with very little veining, which may have been an earlier preference—or perhaps the delight in the veining developed later in the eighteenth century. There are palace glass bottles of this same turquoise-green colour that have Qianlong reign-marks or are datable to the reign through form and other marked examples. These are presumably done in imitation of, or at least inspired by, the turquoise originals, and many of them are close in shape to this example (see, for instance, Snuff Bottles of the Ch’ing Dynasty, nos. 67 and 73, and Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 28 April 1997, lot 25, the latter two with palace Qianlong marks). Although other objects earlier than the snuff bottles are rare in turquoise, there is a small animal carving illustrated in Tsang and Moss 1986, no. 268, which dates from the late Ming or early Qing period. It is also free of veining and of this same green colour.

Another reason to attribute this to no later than the first half of the Qianlong period is its similarity in form, as Kleiner has pointed out, to some enamelled metal and glass bottles from the palace at Beijing from the early years of the reign, when enamelling was at its best artistically.

This was not a material that attracted virtuoso hollowing, as it was not inherently strong enough, particularly with a network of veining, but this is among the best hollowed of all turquoise bottles. It is also extremely well detailed, with a fairly wide mouth and foot of perfect formal integrity. The slight convexity of the foot is so impeccably achieved that it can only have been an aesthetic choice rather than a hint of decline. We believe it stands a good chance of being Yongzheng or very early Qianlong in period, but would not rule out a date in the late Kangxi period.


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