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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1080 

Lot 1080
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Lot 1080
Treasury 5, no.860 (‘Amusing Anomaly’)

Translucent white glass; with a concave inner lip and slightly recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flat foot rim; carved on one main side with two wild horses in a rocky landscape, with four birds flying overhead beneath the sun, and on the other with a small village in a rocky landscape, the foot carved in relief seal script, Zigang ziwan 子岡自玩 (‘For Zigang’s own amusement’)
Possibly Suzhou, 1870-1910
Height: 4.85 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.60/1.51 cm
Stopper: glass; jadeite finial; turquoise collar

Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (1977)
Gerd Lester (1986)

Kleiner 1995, no. 147
Treasury 5, no.860

British Museum, London, June – October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July – November 1997

This bottle gives us reason to think that it was carved in Suzhou. The name of the late-Ming jade carver Lu Zigang陸子剛name has been carved in relief on this bottle’s protruding flat foot, and the bottle represents a pastiche of the style of Lu Zigang as transmitted through Suzhou emulations from the early Qing period, which were numerous and generally included his signature as a sort of hallmark.

Intriguingly, both the type of glass and, more significantly, the form are very similar to the standard glass bottles of micro-engraver Zhou Honglai 周鴻來from the end of the Qing dynasty. Zhou must have had a glassmaker supplying him with blanks—there is no possibility that he would have been able to find so many old bottles that were so alike—and the same artisan may have made this bottle.

Even if this bottle was made by whomever Zhou used as his glass supplier, two details indicate that the supplier had a different client (or no particular client) in mind. The necks of Zhou’s custom-made bottles, always cylindrical, lack an upper neck rim, whereas in this example has a groove round the neck to give the impression of a protruding neck rim. Similarly, Zhou’s standard bottles have a protruding flat foot, indicating the glassmaker felt no need to go to the extra trouble of creating a foot rim; the bottle would be appealing because of Zhou’s engraving, not because of its formal qualities. This bottle, on the other hand, has a protruding flat foot rim.

In the first three auctions of this collection, we tentatively located Zhou’s glassmaker in Jiaxing 嘉興, basing our supposition on the fact that one of Zhou’s signed works, Sale 2, lot 25, bore a dedication stating that a man we think was an artist named Shao Songnian 紹松年 (1848 – 1923) was sending the bottle from Yuanhu 鴛湖 (a lake in the middle of Jiaxing that was a famous scenic spot in the Ming and Qing dynasties) to a prefect in Ji’nan, Shandong. However, the seven other Zhou Honglai works in the Bloch collection either mention no location (Sale 2, lot 64 and Sale 4, lots 32 and 111), simply identify Zhou as a native of Nanjing (Sale 1, lot 99 and Sale 3, lot 8), or specify that the engraving was done in Hangzhou (Sale 3, lot 8, again; Sale 4, lot 21, and the present auction, lot 1013). Lacking any other evidence for a glassmaking industry in Jiaxing, we should give some weight to this bottle as evidence for Suzhou as the origin of the bottles used by Zhou Honglai. Suzhou lies between Zhou’s native Nanjing to the west and Jiaxing and Hangzhou to the southeast; Zhou could have bought blanks when passing through, or he could have had them shipped to wherever he was.

None of this precludes the possibility that the glass itself was produced somewhere else entirely and sold to a workshop in Suzhou (especially in the case of the present bottle) or in other cities in the area that turned it into blanks for engravers like the carver of this bottle and Zhou Honglai. In any case, despite an attribution to the eighteenth century on its last outing, the similarity of the material and form of this snuff bottle to Zhou’s standard bottles gives us confidence that this dates from the late nineteenth century.


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.


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=1851&exhibition=13&ee_lang=eng


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