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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 63 

Lot 63

Lot 63
Treasury 2, no. 332 (‘The Six Red-Eyed Cranes’)

Agate; adequately hollowed, with a concave foot surrounded by a flat footrim; carved with a partially cameo design of six cranes, a mature pine tree, and a tall, rocky outcrop
The Red-Eyed-Crane Master, possibly Official School, 1760–1860
Height: 6.53 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.72/1.80 and 1.18 cm (oval)
Stopper: coral; gilt-bronze collar

Hugh M. Moss Ltd.
Paula J. Hallett
Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (1986)

Kleiner 1987, no. 167
Galeries Lafayette 1990, p. 10
JICSBS, Autumn 1997, p. 12
Treasury 2, no. 332

Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
Galeries Lafayette, Paris, April 1990
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

This delightful bottle qualifies splendidly for the rather dubious group of Eyeball Agate bottles (see Sale 1, lot 6) on the strength of its most imaginative feature: every single one of the seven cranes has an entirely natural eye made up of a tiny red dot enclosed within a small circle of grey which is in turn ringed by white in most cases, all, of course, entirely natural to the stone. This touch alone lifts it into a class with the J & J example (Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 159) which is one of the most impressive of the small group, all obviously from the same material and made in the same workshop, although exhibiting a fairly wide range of quality and imaginativeness. They are discussed in detail in that publication with other examples cited. Since then, two further examples have come to light, one from the Reif Collection, also with the design of cranes and a pine tree and using natural markings for the eyes (Christie’s, New York, 18 October 1993, lot 152) and one in Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 5 May 1994, lot 1405. The Reif bottle was very clearly from the same piece of material as this, although it is less well carved. Otherwise the style is close enough to assume that they are from the same hand. The other, although rather hefty, is intriguing as it has a deer carved beneath the pine tree, which is reminiscent of the two famous agate deer bottles (Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 163, and Sotheby’s, New York, 25 October 1997, lot 188). Perhaps the same workshop produced all of these bottles.

Although we have included this bottle in the Official School grouping, it is a tentative inclusion based on commonality of intent, with cameo and relief carving of auspicious subjects and masterly ink-play. There are no solid stylistic links, as there are with most of the other bottles included in the school, but until we learn more about the various workshops, this group fits more comfortably within the broad Official School than any other.

The subject of the pine tree is the common thread in the series, always using the green ‘skin’ of the material to form the clusters of pine needles, which are always carved with the same radiating incisions through the thin green plane and then dotted with small, randomly placed circular depressions in the stone.

The style of rockwork on this example is also distinctive. The abstracted rock formation is uniformly depicted by superimposing a simple incised linear frame as a border to the overlapping angular forms, in itself an unusual treatment but made the more so by the addition of irregular groups of depressions, which are left quite rough. They appear to be formed partly from natural, green weathered depressions, perhaps from the outer skin of the geode where it meets the agate.

The subject of six cranes (liu he) suggests a rebus for liuhe tongchun, ‘The whole world shares in the [plenitude of] springtime’.


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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