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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 114 

Lot 114

Lot 114
Treasury 2, no. 216 (‘The Silk-Cocoon Agate’)

Agate; very well hollowed, with a flat lip and a concave foot surrounded by a narrow rounded footrim
Height: 3.68 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.59/1.49 cm
Stopper: carnelian; jadeite finial; plastic collar

Kaynes-Klitz Collection
Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 3 November 1994, lot 913

Treasury 2, no. 216

A first glance at the side with the more oval markings suggests that the body is ovoid, with the larger dimension vertical. Even the other main side, with its more circular striations, seems to be very slightly ovoid. In fact, the body is within a tiny fraction of being perfectly, and the minutely smaller dimension is, surprisingly, the vertical one (3.59 cm as opposed to 3.61 cm). The illusion is partly fostered by the oval markings on one side, but it is also due to the neck, which extends out of the circle and appears to stretch the form vertically.

Any form can be altered quite radically by the addition of a neck or foot, and even by the subtler changes of how the line of the body is transformed into the line of the neck, for instance, quite apart from the endless possibilities for variation of the basic form itself.

The concave recession surrounded by a flat or rounded footrim in this example forms one of the four common types of foot. The others are a flat area, a protruding but not recessed foot, or a naturalistic foot made up from either the form of the bottle or from relief detail decorating it, common, for instance, on flora- or fauna-shaped bottles. There are then combinations of these four that can vary the possible types of foot considerably, although they are relatively less common. The solution here was widely used for bottles without a raised footrim, particularly on rounded forms. The lower extremity of the curving shape, instead of being left flat, which would function just as well as a foot and which was also common, has been cut with a concave recession. The area between this recession and the outer wall of the bottle forms the footrim, usually quite indistinct and more the result of transforming a curve in one direction into its opposite, as is the case here. As an example of this kind of foot, this is impeccable, with an even and very narrow width of rim surrounding a perfect oval concavity. This quality and perfection of detail is consistent throughout the bottle, which is also very well hollowed.

Materially, the bottle is rather spectacular as well. The so-called ‘thumb-print agates’ or, to give them the more romantic, Chinese name, ‘entwining-cocoon agates’, are always impressive, but this one is unusually so because of the pinkish colouring and markings and the fact that the striations are so close together that the stone acquires an almost satin-like sheen as it is turned in the hand, a quality no doubt enhanced by the thinness of the hollowing, which is also rare for this type of material.


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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