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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 72 

Lot 72

Lot 72
Treasury 5, no. 904 (‘Subtle Fragrance’)

Transparent ruby-red glass and colourless glass with a few scattered small air bubbles; with a flat lip and flat foot; carved as a single overlay with a continuous design of blossoming prunus branches interspersed with poetic descriptions of the prunus in regular script
1750 –1810
Height: 5.82 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.70/1.28 cm
Stopper: jadeite; plastic collar

Illustration: watercolour by Peter Suart

Edmund F. Dwyer
Christie’s, London, 12 October 1987, lot 11

Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 124
Treasury 5, no. 904

Hong Kong Museum of Art, March – June 1994
National Museum of Singapore, November 1994 – February1995

This bottle is unique and thus difficult to categorize. Of lovely design, it is superbly executed and the materials are excellent, with colourless glass of crystalline clarity and a delightful pale ruby-red overlay. In common with most examples displaying this quality, the court is a possible source, but there is too little to link it to the imperial glassworks to allow even a tentative attribution. It may have some connection with the mid-Qianlong trend for crystal-like grounds for glass carvings and enamelling, suggesting a possible date, but in the absence of additional evidence we deem it unwise to grasp at so thin a straw. The materials and quality would all be feasible for the mid- to late Qianlong period.

The prunus is common enough on glass, as evident from other snuff bottles, but the conception and composition here surpass the usual depictions. Combined with verses about the flower, the impression is of a typically Qing literati painting. The line Anxiang fudong yue huanghun 暗香浮動月黃昏 (‘Its secret fragrance floats; the moonlit dusk’) is a description of the prunus originating with the reclusive poet Lin Bu 林逋 (967 – 1028) and repeated endlessly ever since. The other inscriptions are all poetic terms for the prunus: bingji 冰肌 (‘skin of ice)’, yuehen 月痕 (‘Trace of the moonlight’) and yugu 玉骨 (‘bones of jade)’.


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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