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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1035 

Lot 1035
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Lot 1035
Treasury 2, no. 278 (‘The Feckless Fenghuang Agate’)

Agate; very well hollowed; with a concave lip and slightly concave foot; the natural markings in the stone edited to create, on one side, the design of a fenghuang standing on one leg and, on the other, an eagle, also on one leg, and a bear
Official School, 1730–1850
Height: 5.92 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.79/2.35 and 2.30 cm (oval)
Stopper: coral; vinyl and turquoise collar

Mr & Mrs D. A. Ionides
D. A. Ionides Will Trust
Christie’s, London, 13 June 1990, lot 518

‘ Chinese Snuff Bottles,’ The Antique Collectors’ Club, September 1967,
Vol. 2, no. 5
Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 226
Treasury 2, no. 278

Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum, Singapore, November 1994–February 1995

On this unusual bottle, both sides are almost entirely carved in relief, albeit very low relief, and the designs are entirely contrived through lapidary work with one notable, extraordinary exception: the face of the fenghuang. The bottle is in fact closer to the full cameo relief type than to a traditional shadow agate bottle.

Apart from the clarity of design, allowed by the technique, of course, the fenghuang is an unusual subject for the medium. One reason for the rarity of this design may have been its great complexity of profile. To establish it beyond doubt as a fenghuang is a great deal more demanding of detail than establishing the identity of a duck or goose. It probably required thin level sheets of darker material running through the quartz to achieve the more complex design.

The other main side is also rather unusual because of its more complex subject matter, with two distinct elements. The design of the eagle (ying) and the bear (xiong) was a standard image used to evoke ideas of courage, loyalty, and ability to achieve, qualities perceived as inherent in a hero (yingxiong). Above all, however, this snuff bottle is rare in having an equally compelling silhouette subject on each side with practically no extraneous markings to interfere with the clarity of either.


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.


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=1900&exhibition=13&ee_lang=eng


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