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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 16 

Lot 16

Lot 16
Treasury6, no. 1121 (‘Filigree Fantasy’)

Ruby-red glass, and emerald-green, aubergine-purple, and sapphire-blue enamel on silver, with gold; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; decorated on each main side and in a continuous band around the shoulders with a design of formalized flowers and leaves, the same composition repeated on both main sides, all set upon a reticulated ground of twisted silver filigree wire design of tight scrolling foliage above a metal inner body, the narrow sides inlaid with a series of emerald-cut ruby-red glass imitations of rubies, the floral design inlaid with enamels; the exposed exterior surfaces, including the inner body but excepting the reticulated floral ground above it, all gilt; the inner neck lined with a silver cylinder
Imperial, Guangzhou, or palace workshops, Beijing, 1750–1820
Height: 6.03 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.57/1.32 cm
Stopper: colourless and ruby-red glass and blue enamel on silver, with gold; decorated with a formalized flower head; original

Sotheby’s, New York, 3 October 1980, lot 181
Belfort Collection (1986)

Kleiner 1995, no. 367
Treasury 6, no. 1121

L’Arcade Chaumet, June 1982
British Museum, London, June–October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

This is one of a small group of identical imperial bottles using this rare technique of thin, transparent enamels on silver. The others are in the Seattle Art Museum (HKMA 1978, no. 98; also illustrated JICSBS, March 1977, p. 9, no. 7, and Richard E. Fuller, Chinese Snuff Bottles in the Seattle Art Museum, Engagement Book for 1971, pl. 55), and in the O’Dell Collection (Ford 1982, no. 85). They also appear in Sotheby’s, New York, 25 February 1982, lot 96; Sotheby’s, New York, 26 February 1983, lot 241; and in JICSBS, March 1977, p. 9, fig. 7, but they are so similar that it is difficult to tell exactly how many different bottles we are dealing with.

The use of enamels on silver we see here is related to the cloisonné technique, by which enamel is contained within a raised wire design, but the enamel is much thinner, and the wires are tiny, twisted ropes of silver that contribute much more to the design. The technique goes under the general rubric of shaolan in Chinese and seems to have been continued until the end of the dynasty, as there are other known wares in this style that cannot be earlier than the late-Qing. It may also have been produced, at least in tandem, at Guangzhou.

The encrustation of imitation rubies on the narrow sides was one of the more exuberant styles popular at court during the Qianlong period and thereafter. The style was obviously practised at Guangzhou, but seems to have been a palace art as well, which is hardly surprising, as there was often an active exchange of ideas between the various workshops attached to the palace and those at Guangzhou. The emperor frequently asked distant facilities to produce things similar to pieces made in the palace workshops. The likelihood that this bottle was made at Guangzhou for the court is supported by the series of exuberant counterparts in mixed media that can be tentatively attributable to Guangzhou and are discussed in Treasury 7, nos. 1660–1663; see Sale 3, lot 133. Nevertheless, a Beijing origin cannot be ruled out.


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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