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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 148 

Lot 148

Lot 148
Treasury 2, no. 306 (‘The Official Admonition White Chalcedony’)

Chalcedony; very well hollowed, with a flat lip and a recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding wide, flat footrim; carved with a cameo scene of two horses, one fat and one thin, the latter drinking from a stream, set in a rocky landscape carved out of the ground colour
Official School, 1750–1840
Height: 7.45 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.90/2.52 and 2.49 cm (oval)
Stopper: lapis-lazuli; mother-of-pearl finial

Christie’s, Hong Kong, 19 January 1988, lot 629

JICSBS, December 1977, p.21
JICSBS, Autumn 1987, p.3
Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 234
Kleiner 1995, no. 277
Treasury 2, no. 306

Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum, Singapore, November 1994–February 1995
British Museum, London, June–October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

This seems to be from the same workshop as other horse-subject masterpieces such as Sale 1, lot 12, and Sale 2, lot 145. It must surely be from the same hand as the almost-identical example in the J & J Collection (Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 153), and the two may well have been made from the same piece of material with identical designs and detailing, other than the rocky ground at the base where the lines differs slightly. What we know for certain is that a good many of the better Official School bottles came from the same mid-Qing workshops, which were connected in some way to the court. What we cannot be so sure of is whether this large group represents the main output of the palace workshops at Beijing or whether they were ordered elsewhere, perhaps at Suzhou.

One feature of this group is the long tails of the horses, which nearly always fall straight down to a point just clear of the ground close to one rear leg, separated from it only by the often slightly lower plane and the incised hair-work on the tail. A number of stock stances for the beasts and the detailing of faces, hooves, etc. also link them stylistically. Another feature of the Official School is its distinctive rockwork style, which sets jagged, horizontal planes of rock against each other, incised with a long series of short, parallel lines set either vertically or diagonally.

The subject of a fat and a thin horse is a standard metaphor for response to official power and responsibility that dates back at least to the Yuan dynasty in Chinese painting. The fat horse stands for the selfish official who uses his position for personal gain, while the other one represents the conscientious official who never takes anything for himself. Again, an ideal gift from the court to an aspiring official to encourage a level of integrity that everyone involved knew would rarely be attained, or even, in most cases, considered.


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=1499&exhibition=11&ee_lang=eng


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