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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1072 

Lot 1072
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Lot 1072
Treasury 5, no.895 (‘Harnessed Potential’)

Transparent ruby-red glass and transparent, slightly milky glass, both suffused with air bubbles of various sizes, the former also suffused with small white flakes; with a slightly convex lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding rounded foot rim; carved as a single overlay with a continuous scene of a rocky ground with a bat flying over a saddled horse tethered to a hitching post on one main side and a qilin exhaling a cloud of vapour, in the midst of which rests a beribboned volume of books, on the other
Height: 6.4 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.70/1.41 cm
Stopper: jadeite; vinyl collar

Watercolour by Peter Suart

Janos Szekeres
Sotheby’s, New York, 27 October 1986, lot 32

Kleiner 1987, no. 94
Treasury 5, no.895

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

There is a temptation to assume this horse to have been carved by the same artist as the one responsible for Sale 1, lot 43. The bottles are in similar material, the style of carving is very detailed, and the horses are realistic and very well carved. That one may be more fluid and impressive than this, but there is a marked stylistic resemblance. Compare, for instance, the raised foreleg where it crosses the leg set on the ground. It is possible, of course, that differences between this bottle and that may reflect sketches of differing quality provided to a single carver, and possibly production for a less momentous occasion.
Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 16 November 1989, lot 23 supports a link of some sort between this bottle and Sale 1, lot 43. Rendered in similar style, it features a horse tied to a hitching post in a composition identical to Sale 1, lot 43 and combined with a qilin like this one (but in green overlay on a snowstorm ground). Another very similar combination of designs by the same workshop, but in red overlay on a milky, bubble-suffused ground, is also known (Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 30 October 1990, lot 20). These bottles must also be linked by the horse style and quality of carving to the bannerman of Sale 4, lot 94. For reasons explained in the commentary to that bottle, we are less ready than we once were to associate that bottle with the extermination of the Zunghar Mongols in 1759, but the dating range we propose still seems reasonable.

A number of these bottles exist, displaying a variety of subjects linked not only by the rock-carving style (when rocks appear) but by the extraordinarily detailed carving. This is more apparent on the side showing the qilin, where barely a square millimetre of overlay is not busily patterned with surface carving. Another example, combining green and red overlay on a white ground (Friedman 1990, no. 34) helps to explain the difference between the merely superb carvings represented by this and the Friedman bottle and the sheer transcendent brilliance of Sale 1, lot 43. The two bottles are not only of the same subject but identical composition, down to the positioning and shape of the bat above the horse’s saddle. The two known versions of the horses tied to the ring handles are of different compositions. Once a workshop begins to produce identical compositions, a hint of commercial craft intrudes and the level of artistic commitment is threatened. Technically no problem exists in producing a series to the highest standards, but artists tend to devote a little less care to the tenth version of a subject.


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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