Lot 101 Lot 102 Lot 103 Lot 104

photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 101 

Lot 101

Lot 101
Treasury 1, no. 52
HK$175,000

Nephrite; well hollowed; carved in the form of a fan-tailed goldfish
1730–1830
Length: 7.08 cm (measured at right angles to the lip)
Mouth/lip: 0.63/1.41 and 1.38 cm (oval)
Stopper: coral; turquoise finial

Provenance:
Robert Hall (1984)

Published:
Kleiner 1995, no. 90
Treasury 1, no. 52

Exhibited:
British Museum, London, June–October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1997

Two features distinguish this example from the majority of fish-shaped snuff bottles. First, the natural symmetry of the fish is subtly varied. The (unsplit) upper lobe of the caudal fin swirls slightly to the fish’s right, not only as a signal that the artist knows full well that a real fish has a vertical caudal fin and moves it from side to side, but also to add grace to the formal symmetry of the design. The pelvic and pectoral fins (the anal fins are omitted) are symmetrical on the two sides, of course, but their shapes vary slightly. This may be seen readily in the pectoral fins that extend back from the fish’s gill slits: the fin on the fish’s left curls smartly upward, whereas the one on its right bends slightly toward the tail. The lower end of the pelvic fin on the fish’s left overlaps the pectoral fin, whereas on the right side there is separation between the fins at that point. These slight variations to formal symmetry are intriguing, and they are the sort of apparently minor details that can separate an artistic masterpiece from its less imaginative counterparts where less commitment and thoughtfulness have been exhibited. The second rare feature is the mouth of the fish. As a rule on animal-form bottles, the mouth of the bottle is either drilled through existing detail or, if the mouth of the bottle coincides with that of the creature, naturalistic lips function as both. Here, the mouth of the fish is quite unnatural; what we have here is a regular snuff bottle mouth, a short cylinder with a flat lip and a cylindrical mouth. It works visually as the fish’s mouth despite its formality, however, and is a unique feature as far as we are aware on fish bottles. For more usual treatments of the mouth, see Sale 3, lot 78 and lot 161 in this sale.

 

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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Lot 101 Lot 102 Lot 103 Lot 104

 

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