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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1086 

Lot 1086
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Lot 1086
Treasury 5, no.911 (‘Palace Progeny’)
HK$400,000

Transparent ruby-red glass and streaky, slightly yellowish white glass; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding rounded foot rim; carved as a single overlay with a continuous design of seven double gourds growing from a leafy and blossoming vine
Imperial glassworks, Beijing, 1750-1790
Height: 6.13 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.8/1.4 cm
Stopper: gilt-bronze of ‘official’s hat’ shape with integral finial and collar, chased with a formalized floral design

Provenance:
T. P. Knight
Parke-Bernet, New York, 20 December 1970, lot 2
Margaret Prescott Wise (no. 441)
Edgar and Roberta Wise (1995)
Robert Kleiner (1996)

Published:
Sin, Hui, and Kwong 1996, no. 34
Treasury 5, no.911

Exhibited:
Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong, October 1996

This example, together with such bottles as Sale 1, lot 48 and Sale 6, lot 168, represents one of the most intriguing groups of cameo-overlay glass from the eighteenth century. Their imperial status goes unquestioned, for apart from the series of wheel-cut Qianlong reign marks borne by many, they are related to a group of vessels other than snuff bottles, the majority of surviving examples of which are still in the imperial collection in Beijing. Quality varies across the group and, as so often with glass, and we presume more than one carver/designer to have been involved. They illustrate a tendency for fairly complex designs to be poorly finished where the relief meets the ground plane, and frequently this more rudimentary style of carving extends to the relief work itself. Sale 6, lot 168 is atypically well carved and finished for the group.

By the 1760s the art of glassmaking had been well and truly mastered at court, and its novelty and the excitement it generated would have been much reduced. There would also have been additional pressure on court lapidaries owing to the massive influx of jade and other hardstones from the south-western edge of the Tarim Basin after the end of the Zunghar – Qing wars in 1759. This diversion may have drawn the emperor’s attention away from art-forms such as glass, particularly since, by the 1760’s, he would have owned an enormous number of bottles of all kinds. Under these circumstances it seems likely that standards in carved glass would have declined, lesser carvers perhaps being more often assigned to glass production while the master lapidaries concentrated on hardstones. Although the court lapidaries could still produce masterpieces—such as the extraordinary Sale 1, lot 8, from around 1780—the falling standards so evident in enamelling probably also affected glass production

This is one of the most impressive of the group, and although it lacks the characteristic reign mark, its design and colours are splendid, and the overall effect spectacular and vital. We can believe that this design has been thought out specifically for this bottle and that the artistic standards of the early reign survive, despite hints of the more decorative approach of the second half of the reign.

 

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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