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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 27 

Lot 27

Lot 27
Treasury 7, no. 1549 (‘Perfect Purity’)
HK$37,500

Ivory; of meiping 梅瓶 (‘prunus-blossom vase’) form with a flat lip and a concave foot surrounded by a flat foot rim
1760–1880
Height: 5.98 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.72/1.4 cm
Stopper: coral; mother-of-pearl finial; turquoise collar

Provenance:
Lempertz, Cologne, 6/7 June 1980, lot 1406
Unrecorded collector
Lempertz, Cologne, 6 June 2003
Wang Ning, London, 8 June 2003
Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd (2003)

Published:
Treasury 7, no. 1549

Earlier Chinese ivory snuff bottles are rather rare. There are records of their manufacture at court as early as the first year of the Yongzheng period, but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Among them is a group of plain bottles without any decoration, the most common form being a flattened, roughly spherical or ovoid form with a cylindrical neck and a broad foot (see, for instance, Sale 2, lot 81), but other shapes are known, including this rare meiping.

It is an elegant exception, since the meiping vase is a lovely shape in any case; when undecorated like this, its purity and elegance of form become even more obvious. Because of the plainness of the bottle and the delightful form, the stopper assumes unusual importance in the visual equation. The original form of cover for the meiping is an odd shape, ill-suited to the snuff bottle: a sort of inverted flared cup with a knob on the top that sits right over the neck, resting on the shoulders. When the form is used as a snuff bottle, the stopper was nearly always adapted to more traditional snuff-bottle-stopper shape. (Note, however, that Hugh Moss Records reports one porcelain wine-jar-shaped snuff bottle that has a stopper copying the original meiping cover.)

The plainness of the bottle allows for a rich array of contrasting precious materials here, while the shape demands that the stopper not be too squarish in profile, but curve in immediately above the collar. This is facilitated in part by the collar, which allows for a smaller, less demanding, cabochon. The finial then evokes (for those who recognize the allusion) the knob on the original cover for such a vessel, but without replicating it. An appropriate and appropriately imposing stopper of this sort completes what is among the loveliest of all known early, undecorated ivory bottles.

A concealed bonus is the lovely old spoon in the form of a forearm and fist holding the spoon itself.

It is, of course, impossible to accurately date a plain ivory snuff bottle of this type. The original piece of ivory was obviously white and flawless, and it has remained remarkably completely free of any age cracks or other blemishes at the surface. But although the exterior is only slightly patinated, the well-hollowed interior is stained orange from use.

 

 

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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