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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 58 

Lot 58

Lot 58
Treasury 3, no. 403 (‘The Star Gods Fossil’)

Fossiliferous limestone; well hollowed, with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding rounded foot rim
Height: 6.19 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.57/1.40 cm
Stopper: turquoise; coral finial; gilt-metal collar

Robert Hall (1984)

Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 248
Treasury 3, no. 403

Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum of Singapore, November 1994–February 1995

There is a common series of bottles from this fossiliferous limestone which consists mainly of tubular markings usually disposed so that the two main sides cut through the tubular fossils to create a series of circular cross-sections of the tube. The commonest colour for this material is white on dark grey-black
(see, for instance, the J & J example in Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 80, where we suggested that these tubular fossils may be nothing more exotic than small marine creatures, but perhaps coral is more likely), but it varies in both size and colour, with the larger-diameter tubes looking a lot more like coral in structure.

Sale 2, lot 67, with its large black-on-white markings, is part of the same general range of material, although with its colours reversed. The colour here is even more exotic, with its brown ground and addition of unusual orange and brown markings, allowing all sorts of representational interpretations, among the three Star Gods standing in a celestial setting, surrounded, appropriately, by stars.

This is another of the unusually well-formed and well-hollowed fossiliferous limestone bottles, with excellent detailing and a lovely feel in the hand, but we have left the dating very wide simply because with a predominantly undecorated group, with few clues to individual period, and the likelihood of extended popularity among snuff takers of the Qing period, we can only assume that they were made over a long period of time. As yet we have no real way of separating out the mid-eighteenth-century ones from their mid-nineteenth-century counterparts.


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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