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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 161 

Lot 161

Lot 161
Treasury 1, no. 54 (‘The Gadsby ‘Fish out of Water’ Jade ‘)

Nephrite with artificial colour; well hollowed; carved in the form of a fantail goldfish, with slight staining to represent pebble material
Length: 6.43 cm
Mouth: 0.46 cm
Stopper: jadeite, carved as the upper two-thirds of a double gourd

Arthur Gadsby
Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 2 May 1991, lot 102

Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 50
Treasury 1, no. 54

Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum, Singapore, November 1994–February 1995

The tiny flecks of brown resembling traces of pebble skin on one side of the fish near the tail appear to be artificial. Staining was a standard technique available to the jade carver for centuries before the snuff bottle was invented. As a rule, however, token staining seems to have been a Qing refinement, and possibly one that developed only in the Qianlong period. The original purpose of staining, long before quarried material entered the picture to provide a second reason for doing so, was to simulate or enhance in pebble or boulder material certain colours and skin effects that were valued. After the introduction of quarried material on a grand scale, from the late Ming period onwards, staining allowed material that never had a skin to acquire one, thus linking it to the beloved, river-bed material of the long-standing traditional source. From this point onwards, a distinction was made between pebble and quarried, or mined, material, and the latter could be connected to the more highly valued tradition of the former by staining. This provided the incentive for the token staining that had evolved by the Qianlong period. By that time it was obviously sufficient in many cases merely to hint at a pebble source by adding just enough colour to link the piece to the longer-standing tradition. Such token staining is quite common on Qianlong jade carvings and particularly on the massive output from the 1760s onwards, when the sources of jade came under Qing rule. For a superb nephrite snuff bottle with some artificial colour, see Sale 3, lot 54.


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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