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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1040 

Lot 1040
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Lot 1040
Treasury 2, no. 237 (‘The Little Palace Watch Jasper’)

Jasper; with a flat lip and flat foot; carved with a convex oval panel on each main side
Probably imperial, attributable to the palace workshops, 1740–1830
Height: 4.11 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.45/1.19 cm
Stopper: stained chalcedony; silver collar

Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (1993)

Treasury 2, no. 237

There is a series of imperial snuff bottles made in glass, enamelled glass, and occasionally in enamelled metal where the form is taken directly from a pocket watch. They are usually octagonal in their main profile and of compressed spherical or oval form with convex circular or oval panels on the two main sides. A related group has the same convex panels on each main face, but is not octagonal; this bottle fits into that range. Whether one was derived from the other is not known, but there are watches from the seventeenth century of octagonal, compressed spherical, or even compressed ovoid form to allow for all of the shapes to have been based upon watches and to have evolved independently of each other. The popularity of European watches provided a number of stimuli for the snuff-bottle maker, particularly for the court, throughout the Qing dynasty.

One of the problems we face in discussing the origin of form in the snuff-bottle world is that we rarely know the intention of the artist. It would be quite possible for two artists to arrive at precisely the same shape with entirely different inspiration. One, inspired by a European watch but stretching the form to make it oval, could easily come up with the same answer as another who was inspired by a Han bronze, for instance, with its raised undecorated panels. A third might arrive at the same form by simply adding a raised panel to a typical, oval snuff-bottle form.

The material here is jasper in its typical brown, yellow, and reddish-orange range of colours, which with its swirling pattern of markings provides a pleasant playground for the game of visual interpretation, as does most jasper. It is extremely well made, although not extensively hollowed, with perfect formal integrity and lovely, thoughtful detailing. The narrow-side panels, for instance, have been gently bowed to help alleviate the problems of joining a flat band to a cylindrical neck, a feature that also echoes the convexity of the main oval panels more harmoniously than would an entirely flat surface.


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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