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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 149 

Lot 149

Lot 149
Treasury 1, no. 33 (‘The Gerd Lester Peony’)

Flawless nephrite; very well hollowed; carved with an overall design of overlapping petals, the foot consisting of an inverted flower head with similar petals
Possibly imperial, perhaps palace workshops, Beijing, 1760–1810
Height: 5.37 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.52 cm/1.60 cm
Stopper: glass; vinyl collar

Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 14 March 1979, lot 230
Gerd Lester (1986)

Kleiner 1987, no. 28
Kleine Schätze aus China, p. 6
Treasury 1, no. 33

Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

There is a general tendency to describe any formalized overlapping petal design of this type as lotus, but the accuracy of such a characterisation is called into question by this particular example, where the petals lack the more sharply pointed tips typical of the lotus, and the fine lines that normally stream from the base of the lotus petal to its tip are replaced by a central line with bisecting curved lines on either side of it. Moreover, instead of the oft-seen lotus leaf motif at the base, we have here an inverted flower head with a completely un-lotus-like centre forming the foot. We would prefer to interpret this design as representing the peony, which has appropriate associations with riches and honour, except that in this case the five-petal flower head at the foot is not entirely convincing as a peony.

Like a similar bottle in the J & J Collection (Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 48) that is presumably a product of the same workshop, this is finished to an unusually matt polish, resembling the polish on a number of the finest of white nephrite animal-form snuff bottles (see Sale 1, lot 19, and Sale 3, lot 118), and it is superbly sculpted, with each leaf beautifully modelled and painstakingly separated from its companions.

The inverted-flower foot is a standard feature on Hindustan jade vessels, several of which have a foot very similar to this one. The Qianlong emperor became almost obsessed with Hindustan jade-carving from the early 1760s onwards (see discussion under lot 32) and it may be that this bottle represents an expression of this obsession, in which case a palace-workshop provenance from the period 1760 to the death of the Qianlong emperor in 1799 becomes even more likely.


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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