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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 150 

Lot 150

Lot 150
Treasury 2, no. 329 (‘The Noble Descendants Peanut Pebble’)

Chalcedony; well hollowed, with a flattened oval area of the design functioning as a foot; carved with a cameo design of peanuts, some without shells, and flower heads on a ground composed of interlocking jujubes
Official School, 1750–1880
Height: 6.4 cm
Mouth: 0.68 cm
Stopper: coral, carved in the form of a dragon’s head

Arts of China (Hong Kong, 1984)

Treasury 2, no. 329

A group of bottles known to collectors, for obvious reasons, as ‘Peanut Agates,’ form a well-known body of related wares that appear to have been popular during the mid-Qing period and possibly well into the nineteenth century. Some fakes that can be difficult to distinguish from earlier examples seem to have been produced in the 1970s, but the group obviously existed in some quantity long before that and are part of the broad Official School (for the link, see discussion under Treasury 2, no. 326 and in Hugh Moss, Chinese Snuff Bottles of the Silica or Quartz Group, pp. 59 and 60).

In this example, the jujubes that make up the ground plane are mainly drawn by incised lines, although very slight rounding at the edges creates an illusion of greater three-dimensionality than they actually have. Superimposed on this ground are small peanuts carved from the opaque beige material common to this group. It is also of a somewhat more symmetrical form than most, although still a pebble shape in the sense that the overall form resembles a natural pebble. Because of the greater formality of shape and more regulated depth of carving of the relief detail here, the hollowing of this bottle is unusually painstaking for the group, which is always functionally hollowed, but seldom very well hollowed.

Although less spectacular in the subdued relief detail than most of the group, the abstract patterns made up by the ground plane of jujubes create a considerable sense of movement and flow against which the sparse relief details are very well composed. As the bottle is turned in the hand the abstract design is continually dynamic and fascinating, leading the eye around the subject in a continuous motion. Quite what the dragon on the stopper has to add to all this symbolism is a mystery, but it is an unusual stopper and the shape is suited to a pebble form.


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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