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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 66 

Lot 66

Lot 66
Treasury 5, no. 703 (‘Daoist Dance of Light’)

Opaque, variegated scarlet, orange, yellow, and reddish-brown glass (known as ‘realgar-glass’); with a flat lip and flat foot
Height: 6 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.60/1.83 cm
Stopper: coral, carved with a severed leafy branch bearing a peach, a Buddha’s-hand citron and a pomegranate; vinyl collar

Gerd Lester (1986)

Treasury 5, no. 703

‘Realgar-glass’ is one of the most fascinating and endlessly intriguing types of glass produced by the Chinese and was, apparently, among the earlier types made under the Qing glass renaissance. Realgar-glass bearing the Yongzheng reign mark (Yang 1987, p. 78) remains in the imperial collection in Beijing, and there is a set of ten realgar-glass cups in Denmark that were purchased in Guangzhou and brought back to Europe on the Kronprins Christian in 1732
(Dam-Mikkelsen, Lundbaek, and Nissen, 1980, nos. Ebc 71-82, p. 218). If such high-quality glass was on the open market in the south of China by 1732, it is possible that it was developed at the imperial glassworks during the Kangxi period, which ended only ten years earlier. Further evidence of the early production of this material is furnished by the fact that several pieces of realgar-glass were bequeathed to the British Museum as early as 1753 by Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753; one of a pair of vases is published in JICSBS, Summer 1998, p. 14, fig. 33 and either the same one or its pair, Jenyns and Watson 1965, p. 145, no. 81). In 1701 Sloane acquired the collection of William Courten, who had made collecting the business of his life; by 1741, when Sloane retired, this collection had grown to be of unique value (it formed the basis of the British Museum collection when bequeathed to the nation in 1753). Whether the realgar-glass was part of the Courten Collection in 1701, which would have allowed only five years between the earliest likely date of manufacture in China and its appearance in an English collection, is unknown, for Sloane usually did not distinguish the Courten objects from his own acquisitions.

This delightfully marked example is typical of the material, with its brilliant mix of red and yellow-orange glass, here with a darker brown colouring that also sometimes appears. The vast majority of realgar-glass bottles are obviously blown into simple two-part moulds, the inside surfaces of which were probably unevenly dimpled. In producing this irregularly layered glass, the brighter colours are confined mainly to the surface, often in quite thin layers. When blown into the mould, these surface layers are forced by air pressure into the dimpled areas and the gaps between the moulds. When polished smooth, this tends to leave the yellowish-orange under-colour showing along the line of the mould and wherever the dimples were deepest, as is the case here.


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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