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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 173 

Lot 173

Lot 173
Treasury 5, no. 970 (‘Unfinished Business’)

Transparent, milky, and translucent deep pink glass; with a flat lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; carved as a single overlay with a continuous rocky garden scene with a low bamboo fence, two pine trees, a plantain, and convoluted rocks in which, on one main side, two children play blind man’s buff while on three more either join in or watch
Height: 6 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.65/1.70 cm
Stopper: tourmaline; glass collar

Y.F.Yang (1969)
Margaret Prescott Wise, no. 373
Edgar and Roberta Wise (1995)
Robert Kleiner (1996)

JICSBS, Spring 1996, p. 35
Sin, Hui, and Kwong 1996, no. 42
Treasury 5, no. 970

Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong, October 1996

The carving of the overlay on this bottle presents a particularly intriguing feature. The surface layer of glass appears to be frosted or degraded, an effect that at first sight resembles that caused either by prolonged burial in damp ground or by inadequate glass chemistry, and gives the impression that it might be earlier than it is. The effect is, however, found to be due entirely to an absence of the final stages of polishing. The dullness it displays, all of which is within the detailing, is the result of tell-tale roughness left by the lapidary tool as the surface is ground away. There are hints of the same problem on the pink ground, which has otherwise been finished to a rather undulating plane. Had the carver devoted the additional time necessary for polishing out all these marks, the result would have been quite different. This leaves us with the question of why, having expended so much time on a bottle, the carver would fail to devote to it that extra effort required to complete all the necessary processes. At this point, it must be admitted that this effect has to some extent been mitigated by subsequent upper-surface polishing, or possibly by the effects of two centuries of wear and handling. We believe the answer may be that it was not, in fact, the responsibility of the carver to complete the job. Specialization was the standard in Chinese workshops at all levels, and a master carver, for example, would not waste valuable time polishing a design himself when it could be entrusted to a minion with the requisite skills. What we may well have here is an unfinished bottle, probably dating from the late Qianlong period, which would be allowed by the crispness of the foot and the excellent match of the overlay colour. It has the appearance of being later because it is unfinished, but we have left open the possibility of an early nineteenth-century date, since this displays a general style that was continued into the Daoguang period. Busy scenes of children playing in gardens were popular from the very late Qianlong into the second decade of the nineteenth century on a range of snuff bottles.

A slightly paler concentric ring round the middle of the mouth suggests that the pink glass is sandwiched, but it is far from distinct, and we may be certain it was a spontaneous result of the blowing process.


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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