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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 26 

Lot 26

Lot 26
Treasury 2, no. 202 (‘The Hidden Fire Miniature Carnelian’)

Carnelian; reasonably well hollowed, with a concave lip and flat foot
Possibly imperial, 1770–1860
Height: 3.4 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.49/1.20 cm
Stopper: jadeite; vinyl collar

Robert Hall (1985)

Treasury 2, no. 202

Sources for carnelian proper, which is often found in pebble form lying at the surface or in gravel deposits, are the Arabian and Egyptian deserts, India, Japan, and China, where Xinjiang, probably among other sources, provided red chalcedony in a number of different varieties (see, for instance, Yang Hanchen 1985, no. 65 for some natural pebbles in both red and yellow material and no. 71 for a specimen half of which is made up of sardonyx and half of solid-coloured carnelian very similar to the material of this example).

Solid-colour carnelian bottles approaching the intensity of colour in this example are quite rare. This solid red material rarely occurs in large snuff bottles, suggesting that it was seldom found in big pieces, perhaps due to its source as small pebbles. An alternative possible reason for this is that there was a single workshop during the mid- to late-Qing period that specialized for some reason in miniature bottles in this material.

In favour of this second possibility is that most of the miniature bottles of the material appear to be of a similar shape, with the same sort of detailing and hollowing. Most of this group are of the simple flattened-oval form favoured at court during the mid-Qing period. They are usually very carefully hollowed and have lovely detailing including concave lips. This example, which represents the group, is unusually finely made in terms of its formal integrity and grace.


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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