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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IV  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2011: Lot 24 

Lot 24

 
   

Lot 24
Treasury 5, no.986 (‘Eccentric Longevity’)
HK$300,000

A five-colour glass overlay 'shou character' snuff bottle

Transparent ruby-red, pale golden-yellow and sapphire-blue, semi- transparent pink, and translucent, streaky bluish green glass, with a few scattered air bubbles of various sizes; with a flat lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding flattened footrim; carved as a single overlay with a similar design on each side of a bat flying across a severed, exaggerated branch growing with three lingzhi-heads towards a circular medallion made up of a formalized shou (‘longevity’) character
1760-1820
Height: 5.98 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.72/1.4 cm
Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar
Illustration: watercolour by Peter Suart

Provenance:
H. Johnson
Sotheby’s, London, 11 March 1975, lot 77
Drouot, Paris (Millon-Jutheau) 6 November 1983, lot 51
Belfort Collection (1986)

Published:
Kleiner 1987, no. 100
Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, exhibition poster, October 1987
Galeries Lafayette 1990, p. 12, no. 3
Treasury 5, no.986

Exhibited:
Four Seasons Hotel, Toronto, October 1983
Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
Galeries Lafayette, Paris, April 1990
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May-June 1993

This bottle displays not only an extremely rare colour combination, but also an extraordinary composition and impeccable carving. The distinguishing feature of the composition is the remarkably subtle lack of symmetry applied to the presentation of a reasonably symmetrical idea. The sides are laid out in similar fashion, with the bat and the branch of lingzhi in corresponding positions, but the artist has offset the circular shou medallion in each case, placing it lower and to one side, clearly to balance the other design elements. Given the long-standing imperial tradition of circular panels visually echoing the circular form of the bottle (or oval panels matching ovoid forms), such a radical departure from the norm is daring indeed. These two shou characters are laid out as circular panels, even though it would have been simple enough to start with them in the middle of the bottle and adjust the bat and lingzhi correspondingly. The option chosen is completely unexpected, and particularly so if it has anything to do with the court. Another extremely unusual feature is that each of the shou medallions is slightly angled in such a way that the horizontal lines are not parallel with the ground plane. The natural assumption might be an error on the part of the artist, but in the case of a work such as this, which exhibits a surpassing quality of carving as well as extraordinary control - the ground plane being as close to perfect as one could reasonably expect - we are tempted to look elsewhere for an answer and, indeed, we find one. Each medallion is angled in a different direction, ideally balanced by the slightly different orientation of the bat and lingzhi elements of the design.

Apart from these unusual design features, the colours of the glass deserve our attention, for we have here another example of distinctive, translucent, turquoise-green glass with streaks of brown. So difficult to discern are the streaks, however, that they are unlikely to be an intentional decorative effect. They probably resulted from use of a batch of glass in which, during mixing, the intended colour had somehow been contaminated with another.

 

Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=1180&exhibition=9&ee_lang=eng


  
  

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Hugh Moss |