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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 96 

Lot 96

Lot 96
Treasury 5, no. 998 (‘Layered Abundance’)

Transparent emerald-green, pale ruby-pink blending to orange, yellowish orange, sapphire blue, and colourless glass densely suffused with air bubbles of various sizes, many elongated; with a flat lip and recessed, very slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; carved as a partial double overlay with, on one side, a severed, leafy branch with a peach, two Buddha’s-hand citrons, and two pomegranates, and on the other with a snail shell on the leaf of a lotus spray including the leaf, a seed pod, and three roots, all tied together around their stems
Height: 6.15 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.82/1.6 cm
Stopper: tourmaline

Gerd Lester
Sotheby’s, New York, 17 March 1997, lot 67

Treasury 5, no. 998

This qualifies as an authentic double overlay by virtue of one side having pale orange set beneath emerald-green. It represents both an unusually sophisticated use of overlay and a departure from the more familiar contrasting planes of colour. The seed pod and stems are of an unusually deep green (owing to the depth of the glass at that point), which is extended to one side to form the upper layer over the rare, pale fleshy orange colour. Such partial double overlays are so effective, and their potential for offering varied effects so great that it is perhaps surprising they do not occur more often. This masterly, rounded carving demonstrates complete technical control. It displays a bubble-suffused, colourless ground similar to that found on many early examples, although in this case it is so heavily suffused with air bubbles that it resembles a milky ground or even a snowstorm ground. Despite the connections to this early group, however, the bottle has distinctive features suggesting that it is more likely to represent an evolution of that group, perhaps from a little later in the Qianlong reign than the others. It is also part of a small sub-group of bottles invariably superbly carved in relief conceived not as a raised plane of decoration, but as carving in the round. The relief is unusually deep, more than 6 mm. in places on this example. Apart from the lovely, pellucid nature of the materials and subtle tints of standard colours mixed with less common ones - including the pale orange here - the group is also characterized by occasional internal cracking. The thickness of the material may have been responsible for this, for the thicker it is, the more carefully glass must be annealed, or gradually cooled down. When very thick colours are added to a ground plane that is already finished (which we may assume was the process), this problem can be exacerbated. It can also arise from the use of batches of glass that originate from different sources and have different expansion factors.

Footrims of the kind found here, exhibiting total confidence and displaying very sharp edges, slight flare, and considerable depth, are found on some of the finest late Qianlong glass bottles, including Sale 1, lot 8, which we can date to sometime around 1780. The extraordinary quality and style of carving, however, can be dated to the first half of Qianlong, suggesting that this bottle might be a transitional one, originating somewhere between the early masterpieces and the finest of late Qianlong carvings. For another example closely related both to this and some possibly earlier forerunners, and probably by the same hand as this, see Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 374, with a fenghuang and frog on a lotus leaf.


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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