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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1065 

Lot 1065
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Lot 1065
Treasury 2, no. 220 (‘The Flying Fenghuang Moss Agate’)

Dendritic agate; extremely well hollowed; with a flat lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding rounded foot rim
Height: 5.73 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.75/1.88 cm
Stopper: coral; gilt-bronze collar

Robert Hall (1992)

Kleiner 1995, no. 256
JICSBS, Autumn 1997, p.5
Treasury 2, no. 220

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

This is one of the standard snuff-bottle forms, and analysis offers some intriguing insights into the formal qualities of the art-form. Essentially it is still a compressed sphere but, as with Sale 1, lot 41, an adjustment has been made to the sphere to allow for the visual impact of the neck and foot. A perfect circle superimposed upon the actual shape of the bottle shows how subtle this variation is, stretching the diagonal measurements by only 4.2 mm to give slightly more emphasis to shoulder and base areas. The visual impact of this, however, is far greater, giving the impression of a more rectangular shape with well-rounded edges. It is only a question of degrees of variation through this transition from the circle formed by a compressed sphere to the popular rounded rectangular form of Sale 2, lot 42, for example.

The perfection of finish here is clear to see. Formal integrity, hollowing, detail, and surface finish are all perfectly achieved. With an equally perfectly made and matched stopper, which this has, the result is formally breath taking.

Few dendritic chalcedony bottles are as striking as this one, and the variegated pattern of dark green markings allows a multitude of possible representational interpretations. Flying fenghuang, chi dragons, fish among weeds, and landscape are only a few of them. For those who have trouble warming up their imagination for this delightful part of the snuff-bottle aesthetic, try reading the blank spaces between the green as the positive element rather than just as left-over space. Large figures or mountainous landscapes suddenly appear, and the game of art is in full swing once again.


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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