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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 190 

Lot 190

Lot 190
Treasury 5, no. 974 (‘Golden Lychee’)

Transparent emerald-green and semi-translucent variegated red glass(appearing as variegated yellowish grey in normal light); with a flat lip; carved as a single overlay in the form of what is probably intended as a jinlizhi (‘golden lychee’) with a severed, leafy branch around its surface
Height: 5.78 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.62/1.05
Stopper: coral; vinyl collar

Claar Collection
Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 20 February 1970, lot 175

Treasury 5, no. 974

The ground colour here is of dichromatic glass, the colour of which varies depending upon the lighting conditions. With transmitted light, a surface that appears to be grey or yellowish grey becomes instead a distinct ruby red. Since this effect is known to have been achieved in certain cases by the addition of a tiny percentage of colloidal gold, the colouring agent employed to produce ruby red (but used here in much smaller quantities) the nature of the hidden colour is less surprising. This type of glass was rarely used in China and, in any case, would be rather wasted on a snuff bottle. This example was, of course, made long before the invention of the electric torch with a bulb small enough to be inserted into a snuff bottle, enabling us both to inspect the interior and see what is revealed when the glass lit from within. If material of this kind was confined to a few snuff bottles, as seems to be the case, in the absence of such technology people might been totally unaware of properties that even sunlight does not reveal.

The style of this bottle is distinctive in part because of the fruit depicted, and while the surface of the leaves and the tendrils are carved in the traditional manner, it exhibits both the boldness of conception and crudeness in cutting that identify this as a likely nineteenth-century bottle, possibly from the latter part of that century.

We believe the fruit here to be the golden lychee (jinlizhi). This name is commonly used in northern China to refer to the ripened fruit of a small-sized species of the kugua, or bitter cucumber. To be sure, the sharp-ridged protrusions of the fruit’s skin and the pointed end are unlike the lychee or the bitter melon, but we have not been able to come up with a better identification.


This is not the Sotheby’s sale catalogue. This is a product of Hugh Moss for the purposes of this website. For the catalogue details please refer to Sotheby’s website or request a copy of a printed sale catalogue from Sotheby’s


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