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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1050 

Lot 1050
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Lot 1050
Treasury 1, no. 165 (‘The Zhirou Zhai Flawless Oval’)

Flawless nephrite; very well hollowed; with a concave lip, concave foot, and tiny rounded footrim
Height: 4.3 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.34/1.4 and 1.38 cm (oval)
Stopper: glass; vinyl collar

Zhirou Zhai Collection (Hong Kong)
Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (Hong Kong, 1993)

Kleiner 1995, no. 66
Treasury 1, no. 165

British Museum, London, June–October 1995

This extraordinary little bottle stands poised at the point on the scale where it could be a large miniature or a small normal-sized bottle, but formally it is a masterpiece. It is superbly hollowed through a mouth about as tiny as one could imagine without making it impossible to accommodate a functional spoon, and the concavity of the foot has been carved from a base area of only 0.2 cm. The perfect formal integrity of the flawless material is matched by careful detailing of the slightly flared neck and concave lip and foot. It is, quite simply, faultless. It is a perfect miniaturization of the most elegant ovoid form of the eighteenth century. A set of nine bottles of very similar form, also in flawless white nephrite but two centimetres taller, remain in the imperial collection. There can be little doubt that these sets of bottles in the imperial collection were made for the court, since a large set of this nature would be a most unlikely requirement for a private individual, whereas the court frequently ordered in large quantities to satisfy its massive need for snuff bottles as gifts.

The incredibly small mouth suggests that it is probably no earlier than the second half of the Qianlong period, when virtuoso hollowing and the ever-smaller mouth probably came into fashion to sustain the interest of blasé snuff-bottle user.


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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