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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 30 

Lot 30

Lot 30
Treasury7, no. 1613 (‘Paired Good Fortune’)

Copper and gold; a double bottle; with flat lips and a naturalistic foot made up of elements of the design; in the form of two formalized melons or lobed gourds joined together, with two squirrels among the enclosing vines on one main side, and on the other, two squirrels nibbling at the grapes, with traces of original gilding
Height: 4.62 cm
Mouths/lips: 0.63/1.16 and 0.65/1.16 cm
Stoppers: gilt bronze, decorated with a formalized floral design, made from half an old garment button; gilt-silver collar

Robert Hall (1983)

Kleiner 1995, no. 365
Treasury 7, no. 1613

British Museum, London, June–October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

In the usual manner, the two halves of this bottle were made in a mould and joined at the narrow sides. A central internal flat panel was then soldered on to separate the two containers when the two halves were joined. With a snuff-bottle form, once the object has been finished, decorated, gilded, and then well worn, it is often difficult to judge by what method it was made, but the fact that two halves here have been joined is not in doubt: where the gilding has worn away, the thin line of solder is evident all around the body. The question is how the two halves were made. As a rule, bronze was cast, and copper could be too, but copper was the softer metal and could be easily beaten into shape. If the design was integral to the mould, there would be a tendency for the design to be reflected in some way on the inside of the beaten panels. We do not see that here. It is possible that only the basic form was achieved by beating the sheets of copper into a mould and the decoration was added afterwards; copper is easily carved and worked with cold steel. It is also possible that the two halves of the bottle were cast, though this was not the preferred method of working with copper; if the design was part of a reusable mould, we can always hope that another product of the same mould will turn up, but so far this is the only one known.

The bottle has obviously been much used and is very well worn, but with a metal as soft as copper, this need not necessarily indicate a particularly early period; this level of wear could easily happen in less than a century of constant use. There is a similarity in design, concept, and form between this bottle and moulded porcelain bottles of the late eighteenth century, and because of that we might favour a date from the latter part of the Qianlong reign. On the other hand, a bottle such as this may have been made well before the Qianlong reign and inspired the moulded porcelains it now resembles in style.


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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