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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 31 

Lot 31

Lot 31
Treasury 2, no. 235 (‘The Flower at Court Crystal’)

Crystal; very well hollowed, with a flat lip and flat foot
Probably imperial, possibly palace workshops, Beijing, 1740–1840
Height: 5.45 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.60/1.71 cm
Stopper: jadeite; vinyl collar

The Hon. Irene Austin (The Fernhill Park Collection, formed between 1944 and 1977)
The Chinese Porcelain Company (New York, 1991)

Chinese Porcelain Company 1991, no. 164
Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 204
Oriental Art, Spring 1994, p. 36.
Treasury 2, no. 235

The Chinese Porcelain Company, New York, October 1991
Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum of Singapore, November 1994–February 1995

A subtle extension of the art of faceting is represented here. While obviously derived from the same impetus as Sale 5, lot 67, although in this case it is more complex because it is based on a ten-sided form rather than an eight-sided one, the design concept takes faceting a stage further by using it for representational ends, albeit rather formalized. The design here is intended as a flower head, and probably a chrysanthemum, although it is abstracted to such an extent that it could equally well represent a peony, daisy, or any number of other flowers. The circle in the middle and the radiating petals, which are scalloped with a concave depression in contrast to the rest of the faceting on the bottle, leave us in no doubt about its botanical intentions, even if the precise flower is still open to question.

There is a series of bottles of this basic design, all decagonal in the main profile, and all possibly court products. Another still more complex example is the crystal bottle, Sale 3, lot 99, which is similar to the Marian Mayer example (Wen Guihua 2006, no. 38), and there are two more crystal examples, one almost identical to this one, in the Salting Bequest at the Victoria and Albert Museum, acquired in 1910, (see White 1990, Pl. 42, nos. 2 and 3). From the same collection there is a chalcedony example, (Pl. 28, no. 1) and several others are known in a distinctive blue-grey jadeite, one of which was a favourite of Bob Stevens (Stevens 1976, no. 1009). Another, illustrated in Hui and Sin 1994, no. 52 (formerly in the Eric Young Collection) is also illustrated, along with two other examples from the Young Collection, in Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 28 October 1993, lots 1222–1224. They are also known in white nephrite (see, for instance, Sotheby’s, New York, 22 September 1995, lot 88).

The jadeite examples suggest a mid-Qing period for the design, since jadeite is unlikely to have been available in any quantity prior to the last decades of the eighteenth century. The variety of different materials, all of the same form, strengthen the imperial attribution for the whole group, since the manufacture of a series of bottles all of the same design suggests production for the court. A private workshop would have been far more likely to specialize in a narrower range of materials. However, at the same time, it may imply a distant imperial facility, since it is becoming clearer that there may have been a tendency for distant facilities to produce sets of bottles.

The formal integrity of this bottle is exemplary and the hollowing excellent. It is unusually thin for a faceted crystal bottle, bearing in mind that where the interior hollowing follows a curved profile, the invariable standard, the raised angles of the faceting are not what determine the extent of thinness of the hollowing, but the centre of each flat plane. The roughened interior is a matter of choice, and were it not for the fact that the two in the Victoria and Albert Museum have the same frosted finish, one might be tempted to assume that the reason was to hide minor flaws in the material here, whereas the truth is almost certainly that with a faceted form and a highly polished interior, all sides would be seen simultaneously in the empty bottle, and the design would become confused.


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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