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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 141 

Lot 141

Lot 141
Treasury 1, no. 78

Flawless nephrite; well hollowed, with a slightly concave foot
Probably imperial, attributable to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1730–1800
Height: 4.9 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.37/1.01 and 0.98 cm (oval)
Stopper: coral; vinyl collar

Wing Hing (Hong Kong, 1985)

Kleiner 1995, no. 101
Treasury 1, no. 78

British Museum, London, June–October 1995

The predilection for small bottles in the early eighteenth century, which may have been a Yongzheng phenomenon but also became a standard part of Qianlong imperial production, probably led to miniaturization as a natural progression during the Qianlong reign and, again, as part of the palace-led evolution of the snuff bottle in the eighteenth century. At some time in the eighteenth century, and probably during the Qianlong period, jaded taste began to require further novelty than what a mere proliferation of different materials and subjects could infuse into the art form. Virtuoso hollowing was introduced, tiny mouths became popular, and probably ever-smaller bottles, until the true miniature was reached as a standard alternative form.

This example is a trifle tall to be a true miniature, but it is close. It also has certain palace features: the material and the hollowing. which leaves a substantial base area unhollowed while being well hollowed up into the shoulders and to the sides. It also has a concave oval foot, which appears on other palace bottles, although certainly not exclusively, and the form is inspired by the meiping (‘prunus-blossom vase’) form so popular at court. These, together with the small size, are enough for a tentative palace attribution.

Formally, although small, it is a delight. The gently tapering form is charming enough on its own, but it has been thoughtfully finished with a flat faceted panel on each narrow side running from the foot to the base of the neck, and this gives it much greater authority as a form than it would otherwise have. This particular detail is probably drawn from metalwork, and specifically from certain Han bronze forms in the imperial collection, a constant source of form and decoration for the snuff-bottle output of the Qing palace during the eighteenth century. The colour is also delightful, the unusually pale and distinctly yellowish-green being of a mottled but otherwise flawless material of very even colour.


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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