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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 47 

Lot 47

Lot 47
Treasury 5, no. 681 (‘Hint of Cinnabar’)

Transparent ruby-red glass shading to a more translucent, cinnabar colour at the neck, with scattered air bubbles of various sizes; with a flat lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding rounded foot rim
1723 – 1840
Height: 4.06 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.82/1.24 cm
Stopper: malachite; gilt-silver collar

Hugh M. Moss Ltd (1978)
Gerd Lester (1986)

Antiques World, September 1980, p. 66
Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 82
Treasury 5, no. 681

An unusual feature of the ruby-glass here is the shading to a less transparent, cinnabar-red colour at the neck. This is achieved in layers, which become evident from the bird’s-eye view at the lip, where the more translucent colour is in roughly concentric circles, a common enough phenomenon when blowing monochrome glass. The chemistry of glass is such that, given the intense heat and the various manipulative processes involved, spontaneous variations in colour could easily occur when a vessel was blown.

This might have happened at any time (and in any glassworks, of course), but in this instance we have one clue pointing to a possible Yongzheng date. There is a magnificent ruby-red vase in the Ellsworth Collection that exhibits a similar effect around its shoulders (Brown and Rabiner 1990, p. 55, no. 18) and a pair of faceted ruby-red bottles in the Weber Collection (ibid., p. 56, no. 19), on which a similar effect is seen at the top of the necks. All three pieces have Yongzheng reign marks. We would have been more confident of an early eighteenth century date were it not for Treasury 5, no. 756, which is of similar form to this and bears a mark for which the earliest possible date is 1861.

This form is distinctive in that the oval is set horizontally, with the neck and foot coming out of the longer dimension. It may have been inspired by a ceramic form dating from the Han dynasty and known as a ‘cocoon-form-jar’ (jianshi hu 繭式壺); its shape is similar to that of the silkworm cocoon. We know from a Han example in the imperial collection inscribed with a notice by the Qianlong emperor dated 1789 that the shape was known at court in the eighteenth century and might well have inspired the snuff-bottle form, as did so many ceramics and bronzes from the imperial collection.

The form has great presence and confidence, with its portly girth and the formal solidity imparted by the low centre of gravity that was created by the horizontal placement of the oval. Perfectly finished, it also features excellent detailing.


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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