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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 28 

Lot 28

Lot 28
Treasury 2, no. 330 (‘The Stempel Auspicious Peanuts’)

Chalcedony; adequately hollowed, with the natural elements of the design providing a tripod foot; carved with a double cameo design of peanuts, some out of their shells, on a ground of jujubes
Height: 5.2 cm
Mouth: 0.72 cm
Stopper: coral, carved with what might be intended as a formalized flame; silver collar set on a second vinyl collar

Stempel Collection
Sotheby’s New York (PB84), 11 October 1979, lot 139
Eric Young
Sotheby’s London, 13 October 1987, lot 100
Bellis Collection
Robert Kleiner (1992)

JICSBS, June 1976, p. 24 centre
JICSBS, Summer 1984, p. 10, fig. 10
Kleiner 1993, no. 70
Kleiner 1995, no. 281
Treasury 2, no. 330

British Museum, London, June–October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

This is one of the most impressive of all known Peanut Agate bottles (see Sale 6, lot 150). Most are sculpturally intriguing because the irregular form and high relief in contrasting material shifts attention to three-dimensional concerns. The material here, with its three distinct colours, was an ideal source of initial inspiration for this exercise. The artist has accommodated the material brilliantly by using the paler colouring of the ground plane to form the body of the bottle as a single large jujube and to separate the main elements of the relief plane imposed upon it by using the other two colours. On the side where the main, inner jujube is more prominent, this second darker colour has also been used as shading to emphasize the roundness of the larger fruit. One side is sculpturally more dynamic than the other and appears to have been conceived as the main side decoratively. The relief plane of brown jujubes has superimposed on it a group of peanuts, some out of their shells, some still in them, all extremely well composed and carved. The fact that this is the main side is confirmed by the placing of the peanuts, all of which can be seen from one side, whereas from the other, only the edges of three can be seen at all.

It is not only one of the most realistic of the group in its detailed carving of the fruit and nuts but it is also, paradoxically, one of the most successful as an abstract. The three basic colours of the material, the lines of the jujubes and the three-dimensional relief combine to make a powerful abstract statement quite independent of their representational content. The successful combination of material and subject matter demonstrates why this material was used extensively for these Peanut Agate bottles and for a series of small pendants with the same decoration that appear to come from the same workshop.

There is a unique nephrite bottle from the Edward Chow Collection (Hall 1995, no. 8, pp. 56-63) that is also decorated in relief with jujubes and peanuts. The bottle itself is left plain and follows the pebble shape of the material rather than being grooved to represent a jujube, and the style of carving the peanuts is different, but the bottle demonstrates that this was a courtly subject and that the symbolism was as suited to the emperor as to any of his subjects. We are in no doubt that the jade example belonged personally to the Qianlong emperor. It is convincingly inscribed with the very personal reign mark Qianlong yuwan 乾隆御玩 (‘For the delight of the Qianlong emperor’), a mark used only on things made for or owned by him. The mark is in positive seal script and typical palace style, and the likelihood is that it was made in an imperial facility, probably the palace workshops but possibly elsewhere to special order (although the mark may have been added in the palace workshops once the emperor had decided to use the bottle himself).


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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