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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 4 

Lot 4

Lot 4
Treasury 2, no. 249 (‘The Twin-pillars Crystal’)

Crystal; very well hollowed into each separate vessel, each with a flat lip and concave circular foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim
Height: 3.57 cm
Mouths/lips: 0.46/1.18 cm
Stoppers: green glass; vinyl collar/tourmaline; vinyl collar

Robert Hall (1989)

Treasury 2, no. 249

Formally, this is a straightforward doubling of a fairly standard cylindrical form. One almost gets the impression that one could slice them apart and end up with two identical, symmetrical forms. In fact, however, as with most multiples and particularly those in a transparent material, the common space has been reduced to allow the visual impression of identical forms joined together while actually blending the two so they are formally joined rather than just placed side-by-side. Thus the space where they join is common space and the thickness roughly equal to a single wall elsewhere on the bottle. It is a much more elegant solution to joining two forms, particularly in transparent materials, allowing each to be read as an independent and comfortable form while leaving no doubt that the overall sculpture is to be viewed as a single formal statement. Quite apart from being aesthetically preferable, it creates a far stronger bond between the two halves of the overall form. Another example in this collection joins two rather similar forms without using so much common wall, but overcomes this problem of visual discomfort by other means (see Sale 6, lot 120).

The cylinders here each have a protruding foot narrower than the diameter of the cylinder, a typical alternative on cylindrical forms to a foot being formed from the base of the cylinder itself. In this case, it may have been chosen to create an emphasis to offset the inevitable weight of two stoppers on a bottle that is undecorated and, more to the point, quite short, since it is small enough to qualify as a miniature.

The interior of both bottles here has been left slightly rough in the polishing process, as in Sale 6, lot 120; this was apparently the standard option on earlier bottles. Zhou Jixu, writing in his commentary to the Yonglu xianjie (see Lynn 1995, p. 6) suggests that the polishing of the interior of snuff bottles was a late feature first introduced only during the Daoguang period and that earlier hardstone snuff bottles had roughened interiors. How accurate this is we cannot be sure, but it indicates a late nineteenth-century belief and may have some truth in it.

The unusually short cylinder of each bottle, made still shorter by the addition of a foot and deep, flared neck, would make this a distinctive bottle if it were a single. As a double it is even more unusual. The width from the main view is actually only marginally smaller than the height, giving the twin cylinders a secondary, rather rectangular profile from the two main sides. The technical control is impeccable, which is an even more impressive feat with a double, since the two have to match each other perfectly while retaining independent formal integrity.


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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