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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 95 

Lot 95

Lot 95
Treasury 7, no. 1712 (‘Crowning Glory’)

Wood, silver, gold and silver foil, abalone shell, and brownish-black and black lacquer (of the variety known as lac-burgauté); with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flat foot rim; decorated with an inlaid design of abalone shell and gold and silver foil on a brownish-black lacquer ground on one main side with a mantis on a camellia shrub growing beside a perforated natural rock formation, and on the other with a katydid on a hibiscus shrub growing, alongside asters, near another natural rock formation, each panel surrounded by a frame of alternating triangles and a sloping border of formalized floral diaper, the narrow sides with another formalized floral diaper design; the neck with a formalized floral scroll; the foot inscribed with a single character, heng 恒 (constancy), in abalone-shell seal script; the lip silver, the interior covered with black lacquer
Japan, 1854–1930                                          
Height: 6.93 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.60/1.74 cm
Stopper: wood, abalone shell, gold foil, and brownish-black lacquer inlaid with a formalized floral scroll; silver collar; original

D. A. Ionides
Christie’s, London, 13 June 1990, lot 525

Kleiner 1995, no. 357
Chen Tao 2002, p. 63
Treasury 7, no. 1712

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

This bottle represents a group that is a step down technically from the level of Sale 4, lot 20, and Sale 7, lot 29, with rather stiffer, more decorative designs married to a thinner ground of lacquer that is not as perfectly smoothed as the finest—although, to be fair, the finest of Japanese lac-burgauté does set an extraordinarily high standard both artistically and technically. Here, the single plane of inlay and lacquer undulates slightly rather than being absolutely flat, and there is considerable overlap of a thin layer of brown lacquer on many of the inlays.

This also gives the impression of a brown-lacquer ground on the narrow sides and the sloping frame, but this is due to the fact that where the thin layer of lacquer remains on either shiny abalone shell or on gold foil it looks brown, and there is sufficient overlap to give these areas an overall brownish tint that is absent from the larger panels.

Construction here is on a very light weight soft wood, perhaps similar to the kiri wood used for Japanese fitted boxes to contain works of art. The interior is covered with black lacquer, and both the lip and collar of the stopper have a silver lining. A silver lining is perhaps what is required here to salvage the dignity of an obviously impressive bottle we have used to represent a slightly compromised technique. Regardless of its minor shortcomings, the formalized floral design on stopper and neck is quite spectacular, one of the more impressive in the medium. It is artistically a splendid crown to the opulence of the narrow sides.

For a related example, of a very similar shape, see Low 2002, no. 278, formerly from the Montclair Art Museum.



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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