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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 179 

Lot 179

Lot 179
Treasury 2, no. 271 (‘The Leaping Carp Carnelian-agate’)

Carnelian-agate; well but irregularly hollowed, with a flat lip and a recessed foot surrounded by a flat footrim; the natural markings in the stone edited to create a silhouette design of a leaping carp
Height: 6.5 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.80/2.03 and 1.98 cm (oval)
Stopper: carnelian-agate; vinyl collar

Arts of China (Hong Kong, 1985)

Kleiner 1987, no. 163
Treasury 2, no. 271

Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

Although not a figure subject, the present bottle may represent the later evolution of the art form in the last three quarters of the nineteenth century. There is no question that the use of parti-coloured hardstone decoration, where the design was either suggested or entirely supplied by natural markings in the stone, continued into the late nineteenth century, and it seems likely that in this case the relatively careless hollowing does represent the decline in technical standards that characterised that period, rather than a regional variation in style.

Regardless of these technical shortcomings, many of these bottles are masterpieces of their genre and still retain immense power within the arts of the snuff bottle. Here, with only minor surface editing, the artist has brought forth a convincing picture of a carp, possibly of the variety that is believed to transform itself into a dragon by leaping the ‘Dragon Gate’ Falls. The red colouring here might be mistaken for skin, similar to that on nephrite pebbles, if it were not for the fact that such agate markings, with their concentric circles of different banding, were formed on the inside of a quartz formation and would never be created by degradation at the surface of a pebble or boulder as in the case of nephrite. This is simply a case of a fortuitous area of carnelian agate enclosed in the more usual grey-beige chalcedony matrix, crystallizing out in concentric bands.

Quite apart from the extraordinary natural markings used to create the fish and its scales, the artist has made inspirational use of a small pale circle in precisely the right part of the fish’s head to provide its eye. In the only distinct carving of a specific detail on the whole subject, the artist has simply carved a recessed ring around the paler area to define the eyeball.


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


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=1465&exhibition=11&ee_lang=eng


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