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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 21 

Lot 21

Lot 21
Treasury 2, no. 214 (‘The Stone Garden Breccia’)
HK$45,000

Quartz breccia; not well hollowed, with a flat lip and protruding flat foot
1850–1940
Height: 5.52 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.8/1.3 cm
Stopper: coral; turquoise finial; vinyl collar

Provenance:
Wing Hing (Hong Kong, 1993)

Published:
Kleiner 1995, no. 300
Treasury 2, no. 214

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

This unique material for the snuff-bottle world is a quartz breccia, where jagged fragments of quartz have been broken up through geological activity and subsequently re-cemented in a quartz or quartzite matrix. It is, in that sense, a metamorphic stone like quartzite and differs from the more common puddingstone mainly in that the fragments of quartz tend to be more jagged, broken pieces rather than well-worn pebbles cemented together in silica. The term breccia is derived from the Old High German word for breaking (brecha) and is used to distinguish materials with jagged fragments from those with smooth, pebble-like inclusions. The striking and unusual white ground of this material also sets it apart from the more common puddingstone range of material, which has a pale beige ground at its lightest. It creates a powerful natural design.

Like some of the other more unusual and striking materials in the quartz range in this collection, this may be a later bottle made more as a material specimen than a functioning bottle. The hollowing is well done but rudimentary and extends only a little beyond the diameter of the rather wide mouth. It would hold more snuff, of course, than the miniature peach, Sale 2, lot 86, but had it been made at a time of regular use, it is unlikely that the narrow-side walls would have been left so thick.

If it is from the late-Qing period, there is no significance in the little upper neck rim, which on an earlier bottle might have alerted us to the possibility of a palace origin. But it does give the form a subtle flourish that is more telling formally than one might expect from an apparently minor feature.

 

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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