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The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1089 

Lot 1089
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Lot 1089
Treasury 2, no. 240 (‘The Little Emperor’s Purse’)
HK$22,500

Chalcedony; adequately but not extensively hollowed; with a flat lip and recessed, slightly convex foot
Possibly imperial, 1770–1880
Height: 3.21 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.6/1.1 cm
Stopper: glass; bone finial; vinyl collar

Provenance:
Christie’s, London, 13 June 1990, lot 513

Published:
Treasury 2, no. 240

The origin of this form is not entirely clear, but in the minds of the officials for whom such a bottle may have been intended, it probably evoked the symbolism of the purse or pouch. See Sale 5, lot 73 for a discussion of the form.

The material of this intriguing miniature is chalcedony of the same type as found on Sale 7, lot 100, although in this particular specimen the surface resembles quartzite, presenting a rather more granular surface than would usually be expected of the yellow variety of chalcedony known as sard. To what extent the colouring would have identified it with the yellow reserved for imperial use is not entirely clear (as was the case with Sale 7, lot 100). Other miniature bottles in imperial yellow glass are known of this same form. If the yellow glass examples were imperial, as seems likely, then a yellow stone bottle of the same size and shape might also be, hence our extremely tentative designation of ‘possibly imperial’.

Although the formal integrity, detailing and finish here are all excellent, the hollowing is not extensive. Given the size of the bottle, there is ample room for snuff, but no attempt has been made to hollow it up into the shoulders, which are rather inaccessible in any case, although not impossibly so. The hollowing is the convenient, rather lazy fan-shaped hollowing that occurs on some Official School bottles attributable to the mid- or even late-nineteenth century; this may indicate that it was made during the period of decline, which we believe began at some time during the mid-Qing period. Such indications of a decline, however, are very imprecise aids to dating, since the first signs of it may have occurred in some workshops decades before it did in others, and it is certain that the high and lowered standards co-existed through to the end of the dynasty.

 

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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