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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 172 

Lot 172

Lot 172
Treasury 5, no. 822 (‘Ancient Ruby’)
HK$75,000

Transparent ruby-red glass suffused with tiny air bubbles; with a flat lip and a recessed, slightly concave foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; carved on each main side with a pair of confronting kui dragons, the narrow sides with formalized vajra-shaped floral clusters, and the neck with a band of pendant leaf lappets
Attributable to the imperial glassworks, Beijing, 1730-1790
Height: 6.6 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.65/1.14 cm
Stopper: pearl; turquoise finial; plastic collar

Provenance:
Joseph Baruch Silver
Robert Kleiner (1992)

Published:
Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 76
Treasury 5, no. 822

Exhibited:
Hong Kong Museum of Art, March-June 1994
National Museum, Singapore, November 1994-February 1995  

We cannot be certain that kui dragons were common on imperial products of the Kangxi and Yongzheng reigns, where the motifs are generally less easily identified (other than in ceramics and enamels on metal and glass). It seems unlikely, however, that this popular motif did not predate the Qianlong reign.

The tied vajra-shaped floral motif of the narrow-side is a standard imperial feature that is common on certain imperial ceramics of the eighteenth century. The motif may have been inspired by Tibetan Lamaism, but it must owe something also to paired palmette leaves with small pointed heads between them, as seen on fifth-century bronze figures and ultimately derived from Near Eastern and Central Asian designs (Rawson 1984, fig. 47b). The plantain-leaf motif at the neck, likewise derived from much earlier decorative motifs, also appears on a range of courtly arts from time to time. These decorative motifs combined with ruby-red glass allow a reasonable attribution to the imperial glassworks.
The quality of the carving suggests that it comes from the height of lapidary arts as applied to glass wares at court, which seems to have spanned the Qianlong reign. The wide mouth may be an indication of a date from early in the reign, but we have left a broader possible range. The slightly pale ruby colour may suggest a possible connection to the imperial group represented by Sale 5, lot 23,

 

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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