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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 94 

Lot 94

Lot 94
Treasury 5, no. 804 (‘The Emperor’s Gem’)
HK$300,000

Transparent ruby-red glass, with several air bubbles of various sizes and with extensive crizzling on the inside of the bottle; with a flat lip and flat foot; the two main sides with raised faceted oval panels surrounded by further faceting, the foot engraved with the mark in regular script Yongzheng nian zhi 雍正年製 (‘Made in the Yongzheng era’)
Imperial glassworks, Beijing, 1723-1735
Height: 4.32 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.8/1.2 cm
Stopper: gilt-silver, reticulated and chased with a formalized floral design; silver finial and collar

Provenance:
Eric Hancock
R. W. Jackson
George Horan, Ltd
Christopher and Louise Randall Collection
Christie’s, Hong Kong, 31 October 1995, lot 1853

Published:  
JICSBS, Spring 1996, p. 28, fig. 2
Sin, Hui, and Kwong 1996, no. 28
Wang Jinhai 1996, p.140, lower right
Treasury 5, no. 804

Exhibited:
Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong, October 1996

This extraordinary bottle is unique among ruby-red glass snuff bottles by virtue of having an entirely credible Yongzheng reign mark, corroborated by other characteristics of early products. The extensive crizzling seems to be confined to the inside surface, and while the exterior seems to have been re-polished at some time, whoever was responsible had the grace and foresight to refrain from completely eradicating the patina of wear from the foot, which might have called the mark into question. Such crizzling, the exception rather than the rule on ruby-glass, indicates an early date and helps to confirm our confident palace-workshop attribution.

Another indication of the authenticity of the mark is provided by the nature of the ruby glass itself: crizzling apart, it is full of air bubbles, one or two of which are disproportionately large. Ruby-red glass of less than complete purity is a feature of the few known pieces of Yongzheng-marked glass other than snuff bottles.

The wide mouth provides our final clue to the early period of this bottle.

Once established, this shape seems to have been produced, at least occasionally, throughout the dynasty (see for instance lot 50 in this auction for a Daoguang-marked version of the same basic shape).

The stopper here is a most unusual gilt-metal and silver one, the main stopper made up of a network of formalized floral design in gilt bronze with a silver finial and collar. While similar in appearance to those which originally accompanied painted enamel on metal bottles, it is a unique version. Probably representing a rare palace alternative, it may have originally graced an enamel bottle, but may just possibly have been the original for this one. With glass bottles, where stoppers in contrasting materials are almost invariably standard, it is impossible to judge whether a particular stopper might have been the original—which of course means that it does not matter—but it seems likely that such metal, enamel-style stoppers were also used on other palace products.

We have retained the various earlier provenances passed on to the Blochs along with this bottle, but must introduce a note of caution. Eric Hancock and Hugh Moss were good friends, brought together by their interest in snuff bottles in the 1960s, and Moss knew the collection well. He last saw it too long ago to remember every single bottle, but there seems little doubt that Hancock’s labels have found their way onto bottles that he never owned, including at least one modern fake made long after he died. In this case, his ownership did not in any way influence our attribution, so it is incidental, but it is worth advising collectors that a Hancock label may not necessarily mean a Hancock provenance.

 

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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