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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 78 

Lot 78

Lot 78
Treasury 1, no. 123 (‘The Rolling-Horse Suzhou Jade’)
HK$262,500

Nephrite; well-hollowed, with a concave foot surrounded by a flat foot rim; carved on one side with a horse rolling on its back beneath a pine tree in a rocky landscape
Suzhou, 1750–1850
Height: 5.21 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.54/1.67 cm
Stopper: coral; gilt-bronze collar

Provenance:
Jade House (Hong Kong, 1985)

Published:
Kleiner 1987, no. 37
Galeries Lafayette 1990, p. 6, no. 3
Kleiner 1994a, plate 13
Treasury 1, no. 123

Exhibited:
Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987
Galeries Lafayette, Paris, April 1990
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

This is an exceptional Suzhou bottle for a number of reasons. The material is unusually greenish for the school, which tended to prefer nephrite with as pure a white colour as possible, and the slightly beige-brown relief-plane is very subtle and understated as a contrast for a school that is renowned for its brilliant use of sharply contrasting colours. The opposite main side is completely undecorated, which is not unknown, but it is uncommon for Suzhou bottles of the classic phase, into which this bottle unquestionably fits stylistically, although it may represent an early phase of the later classic style.

 Indeed, the reverse view, with its typically compressed ovoid form, would give no indication of a Suzhou source at all were it not for the distinctive carving on the main side, although the concave foot surrounded by a narrow flat foot rim is typical of Suzhou. This reverse view raises the probability of Suzhou having produced plain, undecorated bottles along with the more recognizable output with its characteristic carving style.

The carving is superbly controlled, with a wonderfully life-like horse rolling happily on the ground beneath as finely carved a pine tree as exists from the school. The composition is extremely well conceived to take maximum advantage of the contrasting colour while also retaining an impressive abstract balance of relief forms in the browner material.

We have suggested elsewhere (see discussion under Sale 8, lot 1109) that jade bottles from the palace workshops were often incompletely hollowed to leave a fairly substantial depth of foot, which is a very common feature on bottles attributable to the court workshops. This bottle and Sale 6, lot 204 provide evidence that this feature is not exclusive to the palace workshops. Here the depth of the foot is 0.56 cm, and on Sale 6, lot 204 it is .7 cm.

However, in both cases the walls are of the typically thick Suzhou style, although both are well hollowed in the sense of being entirely functional, and the hollowing of both follows the outer profile of the bottle, whereas with palace wares there was a tendency toward a more marked discrepancy between the thickness of the upper side-walls and the base. When considering such criteria, or ‘rules of thumb’ as they so often become, intelligent consideration of other factors is always useful.

 

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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