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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 155 

Lot 155

Lot 155
Treasury 5, no. 940 (‘Datable Dragon’)

Semi-transparent white and transparent peacock-blue glass with extensive crizzling and scattered air bubbles of different sizes, some elongated; with a flat lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; carved as a single overlay on one main side with a four- clawed dragon amidst formalized clouds, creating its own circular panel, and on the other with an inscription in relief seal script followed by the seal gengzi (a cyclical date), contained within a circular frame, the narrow sides with mask-and-ring handles
Imperial glassworks, Beijing, 1780
Height: 5.89 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.64/1.40 cm
Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar

Illustration: watercolour by Peter Suart

John Ford and Associates (1980)
Gerd Lester (1986)

Arts of Asia, September-October 1990, p. 97
Treasury 5, no. 940

The cyclical date, contained in two seals following the inscription, is gengzi. Although no particular cycle is specified, this is part of a group of stylistically similar bottles from several of which we may draw clues, and the only sensible interpretation of the date seems to be 1780.

This bottle can be related to a specific large group displaying a style defined by the manner of carving the dragons. The bodies of these creatures are very well rounded and so heavily detailed that the relief surface is almost uniformly matt, in addition to which circular drilled holes are utilized to define the claws, and sometimes gaps in the clouds. The general effect is of a white design on paper peppered by buck-shot, leaving small holes of equal size scattered across the design. The treatment of the dragons’ tails provides another distinctive style feature in the form of very neatly and symmetrically laid-out points, resembling a starfish, added to the end of each unusually long, thin, sinuous tail. For related bottles, see the commentary in Treasury 5.

More than simply a dated landmark, this is a pivotal bottle in the evolution of imperial glass carving. Our attribution to the court is based upon the crizzling, the mask handles, the circular panels of inscriptions, and the dragons, particularly in the knowledge that others of the broader group are decorated with five-clawed versions.

The inscription reads: ‘The clouds move and the rain is distributed. Ten thousand states enjoy peace.’ These two lines from the Book of Changes have often been used together to praise a ruler for largesse to his people. Several vermillion ink cakes in the Palace Museum (Taiwan) bear this inscription and the date Kangxi xinwei, or 1691; others bear Qianlong era marks. In addition, a nephrite water pot attributed to the Ming has the same inscription, also in seal characters.


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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