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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 20 

Lot 20

Lot 20
Treasury 5, no. 698 (‘The Emperor’s Clothes’)

Translucent yellow glass; with a flat lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding flat foot rim
Imperial, 1730 – 1840
Height: 5.95 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.80/1.81 cm
Stopper: coral; vinyl collar

Unrecorded source, (prior to 1984)

Treasury 5, no. 698

Yellow was one of the colours produced at the imperial glassworks almost immediately after their inception in 1696. As the imperial prerogative, its development in glass would have been a pressing matter, even had it not been made before in China—which is possible. No known surviving yellow glass predates the Qing period, and the early Qing official and glassmaker Sun Tingquan 孫廷銓 (1613 – 1674), does not specifically mention it as one of the colours made at Boshan at the time (Xia Gengqi 1995, p. 24). It is listed, however, by Wang Shizhen 王士禎 (1634 – 1711) as being made prior to 1702, a mere six years after the palace glassworks began production.

The colour of this bottle, typical of the middle range of yellow, is one of the most common for imperial snuff bottles and is sometimes described as being of ‘egg yolk’ colour (not very helpful, given the range of possible colours for egg yolks). The considerable appeal of this rich, powerful yellow in glass is very evident, quite apart from the added glow that imperial status inevitably bestows upon any work of art. It is customarily a pure, brilliant and even colour, although slight streaking of more transparent material may be visible, as in this case towards the edge of one main side. It appears to be relatively free of bubbles, but this impression may be due in part to a lack of transparency as much as to a lack of air bubbles. With the aid of an interior light and a magnifying glass, it is possible to detect air bubbles in this particular example, and they probably exist in most.

The shape and detailing suggest, at first glance, that it may have been carved from a solid block (which would be unusual in an early yellow glass bottle). Formally, it might be any hardstone bottle, with its rounded-rectangular form and confidently cut foot and foot rim. Even the weight is a trifle ambiguous, since it has fairly thick walls. A close examination of the lip reveals that it to have been blown, however, since slightly more transparent streaks in the colour surround the mouth in a series of concentric rings, which can result only from the blow iron.


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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