Lot 4 Lot 5 Lot 6 Lot 7 Lot 8 Lot 9 Lot 10

photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 7 

Lot 7

Lot 7
Treasury7, no. 1489 (‘Archaic Peach’)

Coconut shell; with no functional foot; made of two convex segments glued together; carved in the form of a peach, one main side realistically carved as the cleft fruit with three leaves growing from the area of the stopper, the other with an irregular panel with a copy of an ancient bronze inscription
Height: 5.7 cm
Mouth: 0.43 cm
Stopper: coral, carved as a twig

Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd (1993)

Treasury 7, no. 1489

New research on this bottle is presented in detail in Moss and Sargent’s forthcoming JICSBS article on archaic inscriptions on coconut-shell snuff bottles, where it is revealed that there are two other coconut-shell snuff bottles that bear copies of the same archaic inscription. They are signed by Lu Jun (whose signature appears on several other bottles, as well), give a title to the inscription, and have dedications. This one is unsigned, untitled, and bears no text other than the copy of the archaic inscription.

The existence of two more bottles as ‘completed’ versions of the Bloch bottle gives us startling evidence that Lu Jun either made several bottles with identical bronze-vessel inscriptions, set them aside, and then added inscriptions appropriate to some specific occasion, or made them from scratch as the occasion required, but still with the identical bronze-vessel inscriptions.

The dedication on one of the completed bottles, which is to someone named Xunzhai zhuren, the Master of the Studio of Escape, allows us to speculate on the date range within which the three bottles were carved. Xunzhai by itself was used fairly commonly as a name, courtesy name, or sobriquet, but the one person we have found using the name Xunzhai who was most likely to have been an acquaintance of Lu Jun is Sun Yi’an (1814 – 1894, courtesy name Qinxi), an avid collector of rare books who held office in areas not far from the Suzhou – Changshu area where we think Lu Jun was active. In 1872, Sun was assigned to the salt administration for Jiangsu in Nanjing; later in the same year, he was made a surveillance commissioner in Anhui. Sun retired in 1877 and returned to his native place on the coast of Zhejiang, where he built a library that has survived to the present day. If we assume that Lu Jun and Sun Yi’an are not likely to have met after the latter’s retirement, this bottle is most likely to have been carved before 1877. Our other speculations about the dates of Lu’s bottles place them in the 1860s, so this is a reasonable supposition. On the other hand, it was not until 1889 that a Suzhou scholar, official, and calligrapher named Pan Zuyin wrote a placard for Sun’s library. This tells us that Sun was still known and well regarded in Suzhou at that time. Although we do not think Lu Jun was active late in the century and we cannot positively identify Sun Yi’an with Xunzhai zhuren, the dating range we assign to the Bloch bottle and the other two reflects the fact that Sun lived nearly to the end of the century and that there is at least the possibility of the Xunzhai zhuren bottle being dedicated to him in his final decades.

Coconut-shell bottles are vulnerable to warping and separating. Many of the surviving examples are slightly separated at the sides. This one has fared well, and although there are signs of the two halves separating slightly at the shoulders, they are still relatively firmly held together.


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.


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=1665&exhibition=12&ee_lang=eng


Lot 4 Lot 5 Lot 6 Lot 7 Lot 8 Lot 9 Lot 10


Hugh Moss |