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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part V  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2012: Lot 67 

Lot 67

 
 

Lot 67
Treasury 2, no. 234 (‘The Citrine Time Crystal’)
HK$43,750

A citrine snuff bottle

Flawless citrine; well-hollowed, with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim
Probably Imperial, attributable to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1660–1820
Height: 6.3 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.59/1.52 and 1.48 cm (oval)
Stopper: coral; nephrite collar

Provenance:
Joseph Baruch Silver
Christie’s, Hong Kong 1/2 October 1991, lot 1163

Published:
Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 205
Treasury 2, no. 234

Exhibited:
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Winter 1987
Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum, Singapore, November 1994–February 1995

The Imperial designation here is reasonably certain, since so many of these faceted forms were courtly products, and the workmanship is impeccable, which was standard for the best of court products (although it is likely that large orders for distribution as gifts may have been to lower standards of workmanship simply because of the sheer numbers involved). The hollowing is extremely well done, although leaving sufficient thickness of wall to show off the rare material to advantage, and the faceting is almost mechanically accurate. The result is one of the most imposing of Imperial faceted bottles of any material and, being in crystal, rather rare, although it is worth bearing in mind the modern production of the past fifteen or twenty years in response to the demand for various faceted forms.

The material here is not colourless, as it appears at first glance, but very slightly tinted. It may be a pale shade of brown crystal, but if so, it is so pale as to appear yellow. Since the distinction between brown crystal and citrine is only one of colour and because this appears to be yellowish, citrine seems a reasonable appellation, in which case it is even more unusual, as early examples in this stone are extremely rare (although, again, beware of modern products since the 1960s, often in a rather impressive, much brighter yellow material and sometimes carved in palace style with busy archaistic designs in low relief).

Being faceted, close to known seventeenth-century watches in form, and probably Imperial, there is no reason why such a bottle as this could not have been among the earliest produced at court in hardstones, hence the earlier possible dating given. It is also quite possible that hardstone faceted bottles of this kind, derived from the watch form, pre-dated their glass equivalents.

 

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Hugh Moss |