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The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1064 

Lot 1064
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Lot 1064
Treasury 2, no. 205 (‘The Realgar Jasper’)
HK$72,500

Quartz (dendritic jasper with crystal); well hollowed; with a concave lip and flat foot
1740–1880
Height: 5.31 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.56/1.84 cm
Stopper: jadeite; gilt-silver collar

Provenance:
Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (1993)

Published:
Treasury 2, no. 205

Quite frequently, jasper-like material is included in chalcedony or even crystalline quartz, blurring the line of distinction between what is properly described as jasper and what may be dense dendritic chalcedony. This example is the perfect illustration of this problem of terminology. At first glance it appears to be a straightforward example of red and orange jasper, with solid opaque colouring throughout. Closer examination, however, reveals obvious areas of dendritic markings and small patches of crystal. Under magnification, it becomes apparent that much of the surface is made up of very fine dendritic markings in a jasper-like, opaque orange-coloured material. ‘Dendritic jasper’ is a sensible term where the dendritic markings are obviously jasper, and particularly when they are densely packed in parts or blend, as they do here, into the more conventional non-dendritic jasper and if, as here, areas of crystal are also included, this can be noted as additional material information.

The brilliance and variegation of colour here, regardless of its specific designation, is typical of jasper and forms part of its appeal. In the red and orange range, such as here, the association with realgar cannot have escaped the Qing snuff-taker. Realgar, the natural disulphide of arsenic, was a substance much valued in Daoist alchemical practice but unsuited to use as a snuff bottle since it was prone to decompose when exposed to strong light over a period of time and was, of course, poisonous. Bottles in the material are extremely rare; large numbers of imitations of the material were made in glass as a substitute.

Formally, this example is of the broad range of flattened spherical bottles seen in Sale 1, lot 41; Sale 6, lot 114; Sale 7, lot 51 (where the circle is ‘squared’ ever so slightly); and lots 1015 and 1065 in the present auction, with good formal integrity, hollowing, and detailing.

 

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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