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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 50 

Lot 50

Lot 50
Treasury 5, no. 812 (‘Emerald-blue Classic’)
HK$87,500

Transparent bluish emerald-green glass, with a scattering of air bubbles of various sizes, some elongated, and red pigment; with a flat lip and flat foot; the foot inscribed in regular script filled with red pigment, Daoguang nian zhi 道光年製 (‘Made in the Daoguang era’)
Imperial glassworks, Beijing, 1821 –1850
Height: 5.76 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.78/1.65 cm
Stopper: silver, chased with a formalized floral design with integral finial

Provenance:
Hugh M. Moss Ltd
Louise and Christopher Randall Collection
Christie’s Hong Kong, 31 October 1995, lot 1817

Published:
Treasury 5, no. 812

We know that by the beginning of the Xianfeng era the quality of products at the imperial glassworks had become so poor that the emperor complained about it. Restricting the glassworks to the production of plain examples, he also stipulated that marks should be clearly rendered, which suggests a commensurate decline in the quality of calligraphy. While not of perfect formal integrity, the workmanship here is excellent, and we may be dealing with a product of the earlier part of the reign, although it is possible that the decline was rapid during the early Xianfeng era rather than gradual over a longer period.

The glass itself provides a possible indication of failing standards, for it contains a number of widely distributed large air bubbles and is somewhat swirly and impure. The quality of the material notwithstanding, this colour is very unusual and quite lovely, with its distinctly blue emerald-green tint.

Although not well written, the mark is standard for Daoguang reign marks. It seems the decline in calligraphic standards began earlier than the decline in carving skills. This relatively rare Daoguang mark serves as an important landmark in tracing the evolution of imperial faceting.
The surface of this bottle has been re-polished, and the foot must have suffered tiny chips on one side that have been removed, causing the bottle to stand very slightly askew, and removing the upper surface of the characters nian (‘year’) and zhi (‘made’). Whether the red pigment was an original feature we have no way of knowing, but it seems to be of some age. If failing calligraphic standards were a problem at the palace workshops during the early nineteenth century, it would seem ill-advised to draw attention to them by filling them with bright red. On the other hand, it may reflect the habit in the imperial enamelling workshop at the palace from the Qianlong period of filling previously engraved reign marks with blue enamel.  

 

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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