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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 153 

Lot 153

Lot 153
Treasury 7, no. 1474 (‘Precise Burl’)

Wood burl (possibly huamu, birch burl); with a flat lip and slightly recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding narrow, convex footrim; the foot carved in relief regular script, Guangxu yuannian zhizao (Made in the first year of the Guangxu reign); the foot a separate piece of wood
Height: 8.06 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.75/1.60 cm
Stopper: stained quartz; gilt-silver collar

Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd, (2004)

Treasury 7, no. 1474

During the mid- to late-Qing dynasty, burl-wood snuff bottles seemed to have become popular as relatively inexpensive bottles for the growing private market as snuffing spread throughout the empire. These were usually of a folk-art style with obvious auspicious symbolism, if they were decorated at all. This dated cylindrical example is related to that group of bottles by its material, but it is otherwise unique. The shape is a rare one for a wooden bottle. Presumably, the shape was inspired by the cylindrical porcelain bottles so popular during the second half of the Qing dynasty; in fact, it was constructed in the same fashion. The piece was hollowed out from a wide opening within the footrim, avoiding the difficulties of working through the narrow mouth, and then a flat panel of wood was inserted and glued into place to fill the hole. This has been done with extraordinary skill and would not have been detectable were it not for an examination of the inside.

No other burl-wood bottles seem to be dated. This unique specimen is provided not with a cyclical date (ambiguous without a reign title or other evidence) nor with a reign title alone (which in the Qing could cover as many as sixty years), but with the precise year of a specific reign: Daoguang 1. Does this indicate an imperial product? Not necessarily, given the late-Qing breakdown of imperial prerogatives; used in this manner, it is simply a common dating device to be used by anyone. The first year of a reign was considered auspicious, and such a date on a bottle would celebrate a renewal of optimism, whether the bottle was made for a commoner or an imperial patron. We discussed burl wood under Sale 5, lot 92. Burl wood’s mass of knot-like growths, when cut and polished, leave a fascinating, randomly mottled surface. This feature made it popular in the West as a veneer; while veneers in Chinese cabinet making are not unknown, it was more common to set thicker panels of burl into furniture of other woods. The material was also used to create small wood sculptures of deities, auspicious birds, animals, and other subjects on a small scale.


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=1493&exhibition=11&ee_lang=eng


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