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The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1073 

Lot 1073
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Lot 1073
Treasury 5, no.811 (‘The Lester Turquoise Glass’)
HK$37,500

Transparent turquoise-blue glass over two layers of semi-transparent milky turquoise-blue glass, with some clusters of small air bubbles; with a flat lip and flat foot; the narrow sides, foot, and shoulders carved with bulging rectangular facets
Attributable to the imperial glassworks, Beijing , 1760-1840
Height: 5.5 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.68/1.69 cm
Stopper: glass; silver collar

Illustration:
Watercolour by Peter Suart

Provenance:
Hugh H. Moss Ltd. (1978)
Gerd Lester (1986)

Published:
Kleiner 1987, no. 81
Treasury 5, no.811

Exhibited:
Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May-June 1993

More capacious bottles would have been a natural response to the greater availability - and probably also the lower price - of snuff in the mid-Qing period. In the case of faceted imperial shapes, however, another influence may have been at work. There is a common artistic tendency when copying a form or design to make it a little larger, particularly if the copy is not carefully measured. There seems to have been a trend at the court, at least during the Qianlong period, for designs to be presented to the emperor for approval before a work of art was ordered. It would be unnecessary to execute a drawing of a well-known existing form, and the emperor would surely have simply ordered more of the well-established faceted type in various colours. There might have been a tendency for them to gradually grow in size, irrespective of the convenience of increased capacity.

We would not rule out larger faceted bottles as dating from the latter part of the Qianlong reign – based upon the range of almost equally large pale ruby-red faceted forms from the Qianlong period represented by Sale 5, lot 23—but an early nineteenth-century date is possible. The massive influence of the Qianlong emperor over the arts ensured that his style continued to dominate court arts long after his demise.

We are somewhat hesitant with our imperial attribution in this case, primarily because of the unusual and distinctive variation on the usual form for such faceted bottles. Such a rare form, with no separate panel superimposed on the main sides of the bottle, might be the result of court style having been made elsewhere, although possibly still for the court. The imperial glassworks, however, remains the most likely provenance, a view endorsed to some extent by one of the only other known bottles of similar form, which is in imperial yellow (Sotheby’s, New York, 31 May 1994, lot 618).

Certainly this bottle has a lovely colour and an imposing, unique, and well-accomplished form. The milkier colour fades into a more transparent blue towards the base, and the milky tones create a swirling pattern almost invisible to the naked eye until one uses transmitted light, when both delightful phenomena become evident. Although the apparent layering of different colours, visible at the lip, hints at a subtle overlay, the fact that these layers fade out towards the base suggest it to have been a natural phenomenon arising out of the blowing process. When blowing glass, a small gather of molten glass is often attached to the blow iron first, in preparation for picking up the main gather. This can create subtle variations in colour, which, when the vessel is blown, appear at the lip as concentric circles of slightly different colour.

 

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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