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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 34 

Lot 34

Lot 34
Treasury 7, no. 1499 (‘Roped Gourd’)

Gourd and ivory; with a flat lip with an octagonal outer profile and a natural foot; constrained in growth with a series of cords to create eight vertical lobes on each of the bulbs; with an ivory lip and inner-neck lining
Height: 6.18 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.52/1.08 cm (across parallel edges)
Stopper: malachite

Bob C. Stevens
Sotheby’s, New York, 26 March 1982, lot 203
Janos Szekeres
Sotheby’s, New York, 5 June 1987, lot 109

Stevens 1976, no. 732
Chinese Snuff Bottles and Dishes 1978, no. 329
Snuff Bottle Review, Vol. III, no. 6, December 1978, p. 8
Kleiner 1995, no. 336
JICSBS, Winter 2000, p. 14, fig. 44
Treasury 7, no. 1499

Mikimoto Hall, Tokyo, October 1978
British Museum, London, June–October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

One method of constraining a gourd in growth is to tie a network (wire or string, perhaps) around a young fruit so that when it continues to grow it can only bulge out between the containing strands (see Wang Shixiang’s 王世襄 article in JICSBS, Winter 1997, pp. 4 –13, for the various methods of producing gourd snuff bottles).

This famous Bob Stevens bottle is one of the most complex of all the bottles produced by this method. It is also under extraordinary control, considering the vagaries of the process. The maker achieved remarkable symmetry with his eight bulges on each bulb. The final product was then finished off with the more painstaking inset necks, where the separate material, ivory in this case, reaches further down inside the gourd than outside, providing not only an upper-neck rim and lip, but also an inner-neck lining. To cap it all, the exterior profile of the lip has been made octagonal to match the eight vertical bulges of the bulbs.

Our only clue to dating is the degree of patination, which is greater than on the other plainer gourds in this collection and obviously natural. It would be commensurate with an eighteenth-century or perhaps a mid-Qing date. It is the most impressive of the known cord-tied moulded gourds and, because of the astonishing symmetrical management of the process, one of the more impressive among undecorated gourds in general.


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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