Lot 1 Lot 2 Lot 3 Lot 4

photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 1 

Lot 1

Lot 1
Treasury 1, no. 13 (‘Penglai Pebble’)

Nephrite of pebble material, with artificial colour; very well hollowed; carved with a continuous design of two bats flying around a fruiting peach tree growing from rocky ground, where one towering crag sustains two lingzhi, with turbulent waves at the base, with some natural pebble-skin added to and enhanced with staining
Possibly imperial, perhaps palace workshops, Beijing, 1740–1800
Height: 8.25 cm
Mouth: 0.67 cm
Stopper: coral carved in the form of a bat; possibly the original

Unrecorded dealer (Macau, 1969)
Gerd Lester (1986)

Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 38
Treasury 1, no. 13

Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum of Singapore, November 1994–February 1995

The artificial staining, which sits on the surface of the stone in small patches of very thin colour, has seeped into crevices in the carving, indicating that it was applied after the carving was finished. In the case of the peach tree, the trunk and branches in relief are now of paler material, clearly out of the question if the relief were formed from natural skin area.

The attribution to the palace workshops is based not only upon this design, which was clearly popular at court although almost certainly not exclusively, but upon the distinctive hollowing, where a very well hollowed bottle is left with a relatively heavy foot area (in this case 0.93 cm). The staining of the material may also be an indication of court work. It was clearly a court habit or at least a habit on bottles made for the court during the eighteenth and perhaps early nineteenth century.

The carving has a simple, somewhat crude directness in places, because the artist has reduced the design to its essentials. This is the work of a consummate artist choosing to simplify and use raw, powerful forms and strokes, particularly for the water, to offset more refined work in details such as the peach tree and the bats. The rocks are particularly powerful, being very simple forms, but superbly balanced against each other and impeccably finished and polished. These different qualities of carving have been cleverly used by the artist as a textural language, as brushwork is varied in a masterly painting within the literati tradition to keep the abstract expressive element of the brushwork independently vital and intriguing quite apart from its representational role.

It is a lovely bottle in the hand, but is another example (like Sale 1, lot 7) which probably works better as a vertical sculpture if set down, despite having no foot, since the orientation of the design loses its dynamism if it is laid flat on a table. It is an ideal example where a tastefully designed stand might enhance rather than diminish the sculptural effect.


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.


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=2104&exhibition=14&ee_lang=eng


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