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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 53 

Lot 53

Lot 53
Treasury 5, no. 976 (‘Romancing the Stone’)

Translucent speckled russet-brown and speckled emerald-green glass lightly suffused with air bubbles of various sizes; well hollowed, with a flat lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding rounded footrim; carved as a single overlay with mask-and-ring handles on the two narrow sides
Height: 6.5 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.82/1.65 cm
Stopper: tourmaline; silver collar

Alice B. McReynolds
Joseph B. Silver
Christie’s, Hong Kong, 20 October 1991, lot 1143 (three bottles)

Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 98
Treasury 5, no. 976

Hong Kong Museum of Art, March-June 1994
National Museum, Singapore, November 1994-February 1995

There is a small series of bottles carved from solid blocks of glass that was clearly intended to imitate jadeite. As a rule, they are of plain form and devoid of decoration, but this is an exception. It is not only carved but employs an overlay technique for the carving - a feature yet more uncommon. The idea, of course, was to simulate the outer skin of a jadeite pebble, an aim that could have been achieved on a blown overlay by adding two blobs of brown to the surface of the green after blowing. In this case, however, we may be certain that the naturalism of the speckled brown colouring was not achieved in this way, for this bottle was not blown. To produce an overlay effect in a solid block of glass, it is necessary to somehow layer it, which has been achieved here using a rare technique. While still malleable, a thick rod of green glass has simply been rolled across a mass of fragments of brown glass laid on the marvering surface. Once a brief return to the furnace has ensured the fragments are securely bonded to the green glass, the rod is very gradually cooled until it can be worked by the lapidary like a hardstone. This can be done with a rod short enough for a single bottle, but it is more likely that a section was cut from a longer rod and that other similar examples were produced at the same time.

Research into records from the imperial archives reveals glass intended to imitate jadeite was produced from as early as 1743, with several further references to it from other dates in the mid-eighteenth century. If glass were noted as being of ‘jadeite colour’ as early as that, the material must have been known and reasonably popular earlier than we previously thought. The typically courtly handles may indicate an imperial source for this bottle, a supposition further strengthened by several mid-eighteenth century records of its production at the imperial glassworks. The style of the mask handles and the high quality of the workmanship would allow a date from the second half of the Qianlong period, although it may be a little later.

With its delightful colour and excellent carving, this is one of the best examples from the entire group, and its status is further enhanced by the rarity of the additional cameo-overlay carving. It is, moreover, one of the most impressive known imitations of the gemstone, accurate both in terms of weight and the manner in which flecks of colour are distributed throughout the material, as is commonly the case in any reasonably sized piece of green jadeite.

For other similar examples, see the commentary in Treasury 5.


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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