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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 22 

Lot 22

Lot 22
Treasury 2, no. 233 (‘The Evening Boot Bottle’)
HK$52,500

Flawless crystal; with a flat lip, and concave foot surrounded by a narrow rounded foot rim, which becomes broader and flat where it meets the flattened main side
1740–1880
Height: 5.81 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.79 and 0.69 (oval)/1.72 and 1.30 cm (truncated oval)
Stopper: flawless crystal; vinyl collar

Provenance:
Hugh M. Moss Ltd (1985)

Published:
Treasury 2, no. 233

Any number of eccentric forms can be arrived at by slicing pieces off regular, curving forms. Here a compressed ovoid form has had one side cut away flat, which is also the reason for the equally eccentric foot, where the oval part has a normal, very narrow lip made up of the point where the direction of the exterior curve is reversed into the concave depression of the foot, while the part along the flat face of the bottle is recessed, leaving a more suitable, wider rim. It is a rather strange alternative to just leaving the foot flat and avoiding the formal problems of blending two different types of foot, but having done it, the artist seems to have arrived at a foot shape unique in the snuff-bottle arts.

The hollowing is extremely well controlled but also rather eccentric. The main view, with the flat side, leaves a thick-walled profile, which is not so apparent from the other main side, while from the narrow-side view the hollowing tapers away from the flat surface as it approaches the base, leaving much thinner walls on the curved main side than on the flat one and a greater thickness at the base of the flat side than at the shoulders. This is all so well done and so impeccably finished that it can only have been intentional. Certainly the thicker-walled profile from the flat main-side view accentuates the brownness of the crystal against the paler hollowed area.

It is tempting to see this stopper as the original, since it is of crystal and obviously made to match this particular bottle. However, it is of colourless, not brown crystal, and it seems unlikely that anyone making it originally would not have used the same material rather than almost matching it. Many times over the past century special stoppers have been cut to match oddly shaped necks, sometimes by collectors outside China and right up to the present day. The black collar not only diverts attention from the mismatch, but renders it positive when it is noticed, since the black line acts as a foil for each of the two different colours of crystal.

This is a rare example of a bottle with an oval mouth. Often circular mouths occur with oval necks, but very rarely oval mouths, presumably for the simple reason that they are harder to cork; and the cork, if oval, will only fit in two possible directions, which may be why this bottle has an oval mouth. If it had a fitted stopper to begin with, as it must have done, the oval mouth would ensure that it lined up properly every time it was replaced.

 

 

 

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Hugh Moss |