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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 108 

Lot 108

Lot 108
Treasury 1, no. 72 (‘Green Eggplant for the Emperor’)

Nephrite; well hollowed and carved in the form of an eggplant
Probably imperial, 1736–1810
Height: 6.02 cm (measured at right angles to the lip)
Mouth: 0.51 cm
Stopper: coral carved as a twig

Robert Hall (1989)

Kleiner 1995, no. 91
Treasury 1, no. 72

British Museum, London, June–October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1997

This is an exceptional eggplant bottle for several reasons. The entire carving, calyx and all, is from a single piece of stone, which is the exception to the general rule of the imperial sets. Lot 138 in this sale is an example of the combination of a calyx carved from one piece of nephrite and a magnolia bud carved from another piece. This bottle is also of spinach-green nephrite, whereas the standard type is of white nephrite with only the separate calyx carved from spinach-green material.

The material is similar to dark-green nephrite from the Lake Baikal area of Russia, imported after the mid nineteenth century, when Yaqub Beg replaced Qing rule in the Tarim Basin and the nephrite trade dwindled. However, it is also known from Mughal art of the fifteenth century, so it must have been a longstanding trade item.It should also be noted that this is a common colour of nephrite that occurs elsewhere in the world, including the west coast of Canada, where massive deposits of it have recently been discovered.

The counterpoint of the carefully ribbed calyx and the sensuous bulb of the fruit is a major part of the decorative appeal of this otherwise fairly plain bottle.

The stopper, although nicely matched and of lovely, deep, rich colour, is certainly not the original, since it is a twig, gnarled and knot-holed, whereas an eggplant grows from a stalk that may twist a bit, and be lined, but lacks knot-holes.


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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