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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 14 

Lot 14

Lot 14
Treasury 5, no. 784 (‘Ring Cycle’)
HK$62,500

Transparent amber-brown glass, with one small air bubble; with a concave lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; the narrow sides carved with mask and multiple-ring handles
1740-1800
Height: 6.51 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.71/1.86 cm
Stopper: glass; vinyl collar

Provenance:
Hugh M. Moss Ltd., Hong Kong (1986)

Published:
Treasury 5, no. 784

Multiple-ring handles on snuff bottles are a rare feature. Inspiration for them was probably provided by a combination of the ubiquitous mask-and-ring handle derived from ancient bronzes and the linked rings in jade carving. We suspect that multiple-ring handles, while representing a trend towards clever surface decoration typical of the mid-Qing period, could easily have predated oval and exaggeratedly elongated rings, making a date from the early or mid-Qianlong period quite possible.

The brown glass has been carved from a solid block, indications being its considerable weight and also the purity of the glass, which is unusually free of air bubbles. The one or two tiny, perfectly spherical bubbles at the neck are not indicative of the use of a blow-iron. It is intriguing that so few example of glass treated as a hardstone exhibit signs of crizzling, in contrast to so much early blown glass. This may suggest that carving from solid blocks of locally-made glass became standard only when the problems of crizzling were largely solved, during the Qianlong period. The crispness, confidence, and technical mastery of the carving here are all typical of court lapidaries from the Qianlong era and, as with so many fine glass bottles, an imperial provenance is entirely likely, even if not entirely proven.

The concave lip exhibits a degree of polish different from that found on the remainder of the surface. The convincing surface patination of random scratches, acquired over the centuries, is also significantly absent from the lip.

These are clues to a later refinement. The concave lip, moreover, does not seem to be a standard feature of glass bottles, as it is of stone ones

Among the most confidently carved of glass bottles, with its perfect formal integrity, lovely amber colour, and rare multiple rings, this stands as one of the most impressive of the relatively plain bottles in the collection, if something carved with ten interlocking rings may justifiably be termed ‘relatively plain’.

 

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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