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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 127 

Lot 127

Lot 127
Treasury6, no. 1416 (‘Provincial Puzzle’)

Variegated brown and yellow-ochre glaze on beige porcelain; with a convex lip and slightly recessed flat foot surrounded by a convex footrim; the glaze continuing into the mouth of the bottle; the foot left as biscuit and carved with concentric circles; the lip, inner neck, and interior glazed, the latter with a shiny brown glaze
Height: 8.5 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.76/1.20 cm
Stopper: coral; gilt-bronze collar

Arthur Gadsby
Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 2 May 1991, lot 164

Treasury 6, no. 1416

As the wide dating range indicates, we admit that we are stymied by this attractively glazed bottle. It is part of a group of wares characterized by opaque dark-beige ceramic. Most of the known examples appear to be snuff bottles, but other forms may simply have been ignored by collectors as somehow anomalous and so remain unpublished. Despite the obvious pleasure the artists took in expressing the natural characteristics of their medium, we are assuming the bottles of this type are not Japanese only because they have on regular occasions come out of China. Indeed, given that this bottle was owned by Gadsby, who formed his collection in Hong Kong almost entirely from dealers who bought their bottles in China, we may assume that this particular one also came from China. On the other hand, a rather similarly glazed vase-shaped snuff bottle is illustrated as Japanese, circa 1900, in Stehlé 2003, p. 15, lower-centre).

We are even unsure as to whether this is a variant made at Jingdezhen or represents the product of a provincial kiln. The latter is perhaps more likely. Jingdezhen’s development, growth, and longevity were based on the local availability of the raw materials required for making pure white porcelain. It would seem a little perverse at such a site to make a stoneware-like material that had neither the colour nor the translucence of real porcelain.

What we can be sure of with this particular bottle is that the glaze is charismatic, with a lovely variation of brown and orange-brown colours and a delightful mix of glossy and matt textures, all made the more intriguing by areas of tiny gaps in the surface, perhaps from air bubbles; these have subsequently filled with the grime of ages, creating an intriguing black speckling that goes so well with the brown that no one has had any interest in cleaning it out, least of all us.

We suspect that these wares are all from the latter part of the Qing dynasty, but that is a guess based on the relative lack of wear across the group.

Another of similar shape and the same glaze (described as resembling partridge feathers and dated for no apparent reason to the Yongzheng period) is in Lin and Philips 1983, no. 33. A broken neck has resulted in a metal replacement there.


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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Hugh Moss |