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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 48 

Lot 48

Lot 48
Treasury 2, no. 314 (‘The Tiny Tabby Chalcedony’)

Chalcedony; well hollowed, with a flat lip and flat foot; carved on one side with a tabby cat on a rocky ledge and on the other with a day lily growing from a rocky bank
Height: 4.02 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.50/1.45 cm
Stopper: glass; plastic collar

Susan Chen (1990)

Treasury 2, no. 314

Until recently, we used the name ‘Official School’ to designate extended production from perhaps several different workshops producing for the court, or even just drawing their inspiration from the style established at court for a particular demand related to the aspirations and values of officials. If to this group we add the inevitable fringe styles, this bottle would appear at first glance to be a rare, unusually small example seems to be of a fringe style. But this is an impression given mainly by a combination of its unusually small size and its shape, which gives it the appearance of a Suzhou bottle. With the well-established Suzhou style, small bottles were much more common than with the Official School, and this compressed spherical form without a protruding foot rim was a common Suzhou shape. In fact, however, there are a number of Official School bottles without a protruding foot rim (see, for instance, Sale 2, lot 50 and Sale 8, lot 1104), and although rare for the Official School, small bottles were common enough at court in a number of materials.

Other than its size, therefore, this is a typical Official School bottle, with a main subject in relief cameo on one main side, enough rocky ground carved from the ground colour as a setting for the main subject, and a few coloured patches on the other side interpreted into a subsidiary design in low relief. Despite its size, it is also one of the more imposing carvings from the school.

The well-rounded, realistically carved cat is extremely well separated as a cameo from the ground plane and is lifted into the masterpiece class by the use of naturally tabby colouring in the material. This second layer of relief colour superimposed on the well rounded carving of the cat gives it the appearance of dappling, which is extremely effective.


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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