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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 75 

Lot 75

Lot 75
Treasury 2, no. 287 (‘The Five Pillars of Happiness Chalcedony’)

Chalcedony; very well hollowed, with a concave lip and recessed, slightly concave foot surrounded by a protruding broad, flat foot rim; the natural markings in the stone edited on one side to create a scene of a qilin 騏驎 emitting from its mouth vapour in which five bats fly, the vapour containing the incised inscription Wufu lin men 五福臨門 (‘Five blessings come to your door’)
Height: 6.25 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.75/2.21 and 2.18 cm (oval)
Stopper: coral; vinyl collar

Clarence Hanson (1982)
Gerd Lester (1986)

Kleiner 1987, no. 160
Treasury 2, no. 287

Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

This is one of the exemplary group where artistic fluency and control of the medium combine with clarity of colouring to create the most powerful of silhouette bottles; Sale 1, lot 49 was another example. The bottle was probably intended for distribution to meritorious officials, thereby earning our designation as an example of an ‘Official School’ snuff bottle in Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles.

The rebus here involves the five bats, wufu 五蝠, homophonous with ‘five blessings’; the qilin provides the sound lin 臨 (‘to approach’), and we have the common phrase, wufu linmen 五福臨門 (‘May the five blessings come to your door’). The two dark patches above the qilin may be interpreted as the half-open double doors through which the five bats emitted from the mouth of the qilin are seen entering a lucky household.

Apart from the clarity and symbolism of the subject, the rather-browner-than-usual chalcedony here has delightful patterning on the back that resembles clouds seen from above. It is the result of taking a cross-section through certain types of chalcedony, which is then accentuated by painstaking hollowing (see discussion under Sale 7, lot 65).

Although the bottle is extremely well made and hollowed, the detailing of the foot suggests just the hint of decline, although not in the same manner as with the recessed convex foot. Here the concave depression means that the artist needed to leave less depth where the foot rim meets the foot, which is very shallow here. It may suggest a date from the nineteenth century, perhaps the Daoguang period.


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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