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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 90 

Lot 90

Lot 90
Treasury 7, no. 1475 (‘Toad Topping’)

Wood burl (possibly huamu 樺木, birch burl); reasonably well hollowed through an oval mouth, with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a broad flat foot rim
Height: 7 cm (including original stopper)
Mouth/lip: 1.18 and 0.90/3.00 and 2.27 cm (both oval, the latter with an irregular outer profile)
Stopper: burl wood, with some carving to two sides, resembling a toad; original

Unidentified dealer, Ji’nan, Shandong (1928)
Ko Collection
Christie’s, London, 9 October 1974, lot 166

Treasury 7, no. 1475

This spectacular burl-wood bottle is almost entirely natural, with only the base and foot carved. Sale 5, lot 92, represents one extreme in the use of the material, where form and the patterns exposed on the cut and polished surface of the material represent the main appeal; this one represents the other extreme, where the outer shape of the burl is valued for its irregular, gnarled appearance and dictates both form and decoration to some extent. This treatment of the material is common in Qing China—although not in snuff bottles, where it is the exception.

The original stopper here was apparently made from the same small piece of burl and, although it does not appear to be intentional, it so resembles a large toad (ugly to us but possibly an amphibian Adonis) that it is irresistible to identify it as such.

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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