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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 73 

Lot 73

Lot 73
Treasury 5, no. 831 (‘Dark Emperor’)

Translucent yellow glass; with a very slightly concave lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding rounded footrim; carved with a continuous design of four chi dragons, two on each main side, above a band of formalized lotus petals and below a band of formalized lingzhi heads and petals, the neck with a band of pendant plantain leaves, the narrow sides with mask-and-ring handles
Imperial glassworks, Beijing, 1740-1790
Height: 5.5 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.62/1.44 cm
Stopper: glass carved with a coiled chi dragon, with integral collar

Henry and Lynn Prager
Robert Kleiner (1998)

Treasury 5, no. 831

From the darker range of Imperial yellow glass, this is unlikely to be from the same hand as Sale 1, lot 38 and Sale 3, lot 25, since the style demonstrated by the carving of the lotus lappets (around the base here) is different. Instead of a central bulge surrounded by a shallow trough out of which the edge of the petal emerges, the central bulge here is further defined by a distinct concave vertical depression on either side of the centre. Although more complex in this example, they are less well carved and slightly less elegant than is the case with the other two masterpieces, but let us not forget that those two represent the high point of the art and are among the finest of all known Qianlong glass carvings.

The group represented by Sale 1, lot 38 and Sale 3, lot 25 lacks rings, whereas here there appears a standard courtly mask with a ring handle, the ring being relatively large and circular. The circular ring suggests a relatively early date, although the fact that the diameter of the ring is equal to the height of the head could indicate one well into the Qianlong period. Bearing in mind all these factors, it seems reasonable to place this bottle in the mid-Qianlong era. It may represent a slightly later response to the earlier masterworks. Or it may simply be from a different hand. The lapidary workshops at the Qianlong court would have employed a small group of skilled carvers, and the differences between this and the other two bottles may be no more than evidence of differences between artists.

The dragons here are rather bizarre creatures, with unusually large heads linked to short bodies where limbs have been transformed into bifid scrolls. Mindful of the general absence of consistency in classifying the many permutations of such decorations on Qing carvings, we accept them provisionally as chi dragons.


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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