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photographer New Owner.
Water, Pine and Stone Retreat. Qianlong  Large picture | Small picture
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 8 October 2009: Lot 1826 

the brilliant 'moss agate' stone of variegated opaque and translucent tones of rufous red, russet orange, burnet brown and lovat green, of compressed globular form with a flat cover with rounded sides, mirrored on the base and carved with a low broad footring, incised in the recessed base with a four-character mark in seal script Qianlong nianzhi enclosed within a double square (fitted box)
6.6 CM.

The present seal-paste box is exceptional and rare for the quality of the agate piece used, where the stone is of brilliant red and brown colouration. Agate usually has either green or dark-brown dendritic markings with those of radiant red markings exceptionally rare.

Seal-paste boxes were standard objects of the scholar's desk and were made in a number of mediums such as porcelain, glass, jade and hardstone. For example, see a chalcedony seal-paste box and cover, from the collection of Mary and George Bloch, bearing a six-character Qianlong reign mark and of the period, sold in these rooms, 23rd October 2005, lot 26; and another finely carved agate seal-paste box with cover, also with a Qianlong reign mark on the base, sold at Christie's New York, 1st December 1983, lot 669. Compare also a clear-glass box decorated with blue and gold enamels, with a four-character Qianlong reign mark in regular script, included in the exhibition Arts from the Scholar's Studio, Fung Ping Shan Museum, Hong Kong, 1986, cat. no. 95.

Qianlong boxes of this type were inspired by Kangxi period peach bloom boxes called yinse he (seal colour box) or 'vermillion box'. They represented one of the eight peach bloom wares made for the scholar's table which are discussed in Ralph Chait, 'The Eight Prescribed Peach bloom Shapes Bearing K'ang-his Marks', Oriental Art, Winter, 1957, vol. III, no. 4, pp. 130- 137. Peach bloom seal-paste boxes can be found in many museums and collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, illustrated in Suzanne G. Valenstein, Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, New York, 1989, pl. 138; and in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong: Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 1989, p. 141.


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Hugh Moss |