Lot 41 Lot 42 Lot 43 Lot 44 Lot 45 Lot 46 Lot 47

photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IV  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2011: Lot 44 

Lot 44


Lot 44
Treasury 5, no.1017 (‘Tallying Bats’)

A cinnabar-red and emerald-green glass overlay 'crane and bats' snuff bottle

Opaque cinnabar-red, transparent emerald-green, and translucent white glass, the green sparsely suffused with air bubbles of various sizes; with a flat lip and slightly recessed flat foot surrounded by a flat footrim; carved as a double overlay with some carving in the ground colour with a continuous scene of a rocky promontory rising out of the ocean, with two bats flying above it and a crane flying towards it, holding a tally in its beak, the sun rising above the formalized waves
Yangzhou, 1830-1890
Height: 7.55 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.65/1.45 cm
Stopper: glass

Hartman Trading Corporation, New York (1964)
Emily Byrne Curtis
Sotheby’s, London, 2 July 1984, lot 168

Curtis 1982, no. 2 (colour frontispiece)
Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, exhibition poster, October 1987 (not included in exhibition)
Kleiner 1995,no.183
Treasury 5, no.1017

Newark Museum, October-November 1982
British Museum, London, June-October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July-November 1997

For the design and its meaning, see Sale 2, lot 69. There is another extraordinary bottle of a related subject (Holden 1994, no. 39) of carved realgar-glass and decorated with five cranes, one with a tally in its beak. That rare variation on the theme also appears on the lovely red, blue, and white bottle in the Tuyet Nguyet Collection (Sin, Hui, and Kwong 1996, no. 76).

The red relief for the sun, the tally, and the crest of the crane makes perfect sense, and the two red bats on the other side of the bottle also are unproblematic. It is more difficult to explain the use of a red relief layer on the island rising from the sea; perhaps it simply represents the light of the sun on the peaks of the mountain. (Quite apart from its representational function, of course, the artist had to think in purely compositional terms of a pleasing distribution of colours across the surface.)  In some ways, these overlay glass carvings evoke the artistic response we are used to with agate bottles, where natural markings in the stone demand some sort of interpretation by the carver (and the viewer); the red on the island peaks suggests an ‘inclusion’ that was there naturally and suggested its own transformation into highlights on rocky heights.

The expression haiwu tianchou, ‘adding tallies to a house over the ocean’ can be abbreviated to haichou, ‘ocean tallies’, and we seem to have a corresponding visual abbreviation here, the mansion or tower often associated with this theme being absent—or hidden in the folds of the mountain.


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=1158&exhibition=9&ee_lang=eng


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Hugh Moss |