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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 83 

Lot 83

Lot 83
Treasury 2, no. 210 (‘The Sheafe Douglas Chert’)

Chert (?); well-hollowed, of slightly irregular form, with a flat lip and flat foot
Height: 7.1 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.72/1.72 cm
Stopper: jadeite; silver collar

Mrs John Sheafe Douglas (no. 598)
Private California collection
Chinese Porcelain Co., New York (1992)

Chinese Porcelain Company 1992, no. 58
Treasury 2, no. 210

This unusual piece of material illustrates the old adage that the more you learn the more you discover you don’t know. Two or three similar bottles are known, although the colour varies, all of them of large size, rather irregularly formed, and all obviously made by the same workshop. Nearly forty years ago Hugh Moss took one of these to the Geological Museum in London and was told it was chert, a name given to a range of impure siliceous rocks (and, therefore, of the quartz group). Recently returning to the same institution to confirm this, he was advised that without taking a destructive slice, a positive identification was not possible, but that it was perhaps too fine-grained and homogeneous to be typical of chert, although no other more plausible possibility suggested itself. So in the past quarter-century of fine-tuning our understanding of hardstones, we have moved from chert with certainty to chert with a question mark. Another twenty-five years and we may be left with just the question mark. Meanwhile, it is included under the quartz family because, whatever it is, it seems to be of quartz-like hardness and were it not for the unusual evenness of the colour in a relatively large specimen, might pass for jasper.

The irregularity of the form, which does not seem to be a conscious artistic choice, is probably due to careless manufacture. The bottle makes up for this shortcoming, however, with its rare material, lovely finish, and pleasant feel and balance in the hand.


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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