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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 24 

Lot 24

Lot 24
Treasury 2, no. 196 (‘Three Hidden Bats’)
HK$62,500

Chalcedony; very well hollowed, with a concave lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a rounded protruding footrim, the two main sides each with a raised, circular panel
Possibly imperial, perhaps Official School, 1740–1850
Height: 6.01 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.9/1.7 cm
Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar

Provenance:
Kaynes-Klitz Collection
Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 16 November 1989, lot 89

Published:
Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 208
Treasury 2, no. 196

Exhibited:
Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum, Singapore, November 1994–February 1995

The possible range of markings in chalcedony is enormous, and, like hair-crystal, no two specimens are ever exactly alike, unless they are of completely unmarked, monochrome material from the same source. This affords the snuff-bottle collector an extraordinary range of exciting materials from which to choose with some astonishing, even seemingly miraculous natural markings.

This example represents a common colour combination for the chalcedony used in the snuff-bottle field. The transparent grey-beige with areas ranging from a much warmer orange-brown to almost black are a standard for the snuff-bottle maker; it is the material from which the majority of both silhouette and relief carved chalcedony bottles were made.

The ‘possibly imperial’ designation here is based on little more than the form and the certainty that vastly more bottles in quartz must have been made at and for the court than we can identify as imperial at present. We believe that a broad range of chalcedony bottles of the parti-coloured variety was probably made by the imperial workshops for the use of high officials; if decorated chalcedony bottles were made at and for the court, then certainly plain ones were also made by the same workshops. But it must be remembered that imperial styles influenced private production, making it impossible to rely on form alone to distinguish the two.

This flattened sphere with broad, slightly flared, crisply defined foot and slightly flared neck, set with a circular panel on each side, relates directly to palace style. Wherever this bottle was made, there is no question it was made with consummate skill and a refined artistic taste. It is of perfect formal integrity, superbly hollowed and detailed.

 

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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