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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 83 

Lot 83

Lot 83
Treasury 1, no. 74 (‘Encircled Gourd’)

Nephrite; of double-gourd form, hollowed into both bulbs and with a recessed convex foot; a loose ring around the waist
Possibly imperial, perhaps palace workshops, Beijing, 1730–1800
Height: 5.15 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.45/1.10 cm
Stopper: tourmaline

Sotheby’s, London, 23 March 1988, lot 398

Kleiner 1995, no. 100
Treasury 1, no. 74

British Museum, June–October 1995

The association with the palace for bottles of this design was discussed under Sale 4, lot 87, which follows the same formal concept. As we pointed out there, the idea of the loose ring around a double gourd, once thought of, could easily be reproduced by other workshops, but in practice we wonder whether this happened very often. Only if one were to find an example in a distinctly different style or quality of carving might it suggest a copy by another workshop.

We exclude, of course, modern copies made in recent years where a purely commercial workshop in Hong Kong or China with access to books and auction catalogues simply copies a range of existing designs. We have seen a modern copy of this form, complete with its loose ring in a dark-coloured conglomerate limestone, and there can be no question that copies from publications will become even more numerous as snuff bottles continue to increase in value.

The hollowing on this example goes well down into the foot, which suggests that it was not made for display in the palace, where a heavy base seems to have been favoured for the sake of stability. There are other features, however, that provide tentative links to the palace, lending a little weight to our assumption that it is the most likely source for this bottle. The white nephrite has distinctive rather chalky-white inclusions typical of the sort of materials used at the court. The size and shape of the double gourd is also similar to a range of palace-enamelled glass bottles from the early or mid-Qianlong period, where we see a flared neck, a narrow waist, and a circular footrim with a recessed foot. Although these features may be dictated to some extent by the common form of the double gourd they may have some special significance. The foot here is also distinctive in having a convex bulge to the inner foot, continuing the line of the lower bulb of the gourd as if the footrim were superimposed upon a natural form instead of having a flat foot. This is also a feature of some of the enamelled glass bottles.


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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