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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 81 

Lot 81

Lot 81
Treasury 2, no. 193 (‘The Tourmaline Thicket Crystal’)
HK$11,250

Colourless crystal with inclusions of tourmaline; well hollowed, with a flat lip and flat foot
Possibly school of the Rustic Crystal Master, 1740–1880
Height: 5.53 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.52/1.61 cm
Stopper: coral; pearl finial; vinyl collar

Provenance:
H. G. Beasley
Miss M. A. Beasley
Sotheby’s, London, 2 July 1984, lot 42

Published:
Treasury 2, no. 193

With hair crystal, the combination of colour, thickness, alignment, and density of the needle-like crystals offers an infinite range of possible appearances and, of course, no two specimens of the stone can ever be identical. This example is of the more densely packed variety, where the clear crystal appears almost black, in the same way that white paper would appear almost black if covered with a mass of thinly inked lines. The inclusions are also evenly spread throughout the bottle with very little variation in density. The result is a bottle that relies mainly upon an initial formal appeal, the intriguing nature of the material only coming alive when in the hand and at close quarters, or with transmitted light.

The form is a fairly standard mid-Qing one and is essentially another variation on the rounded rectangle, which was practical as a container and relatively easier to form than, say, a spherical bottle. It was a popular shape with the School of the Rustic Crystal Master (see Moss 1971,nos. 63-65 for examples similar form, and nos. 68 and 69 for slightly more rounded variants). Since this large school of quartz carvers certainly produced plain as well as decorated snuff bottles, it is more than likely that this similarly shaped bottle is part of its output.

Although the roughly rectangular bottle allowed for simple initial shaping and a minimum of wasted material, it carried the same potential as any other form for elegance of execution. Slight variation in the angle of the taper or in the rounding of the shoulders or narrow-side profile makes an enormous difference aesthetically. Here the taper towards the foot is slightly more pronounced than in many examples of the form and the narrow-side view reveals an elegant bulge in the upper body giving way to a more subtle but balancing taper towards the foot.

 

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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