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The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1099 

Lot 1099
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Lot 1099
Treasury 3, no. 386 (‘The Midnight Bowenite’)
HK$22,500

Bowenite, possibly with some artificial colour; adequately but not extensively hollowed; with a flat lip and recessed concave foot surrounded by a flat foot rim
1780–1880
Height: 6.6 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.52/1.82 cm
Stopper: jadeite; vinyl collar

Provenance:
Wing Hing (Hong Kong, 1985)

Published:
Treasury 3, no. 386

Although not extensively hollowed, the unusual elongated shape of this bowenite snuff bottle, with its cylindrical neck and recessed circular foot, is of perfect formal integrity and impeccably finished.

The material is an unusual one for the serpentine range, of which bowenite is one variety, and may, like Sale 2, lot 6, owe part of its colour to artificial staining. Serpentine stains relatively easily, and because of its frequent resemblance to nephrite, it was probably dealt with in the same manner and within the same aesthetic, where black or rich russet-brown pebble skin was valued—and often contrived. Close examination reveals a fascinating surface texture of interlocking platelets, not entirely dissimilar to Sale 2, lot 6, with reddish veins running through the grey- and beige-streaked black stone. Because of its softness, serpentine, even in its harder range, takes a delightful surface patina, smoothing well with age but also absorbing oils from the hand, which darkens the surface over the years.

China probably had fairly extensive deposits of serpentine, and it was certainly found in large quantities in the Xinjiang region. Another indigenous source was apparently in Hunan province, although there may have been others. It could also have been among imported stones, since its occurrence is fairly widespread and most countries have their own celebrated deposits of serpentine with a wide variety of different names.

 

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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