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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 85 

Lot 85

Lot 85
Treasury 5, no. 756 (‘Constant Cocoon’)
HK$81,250

Transparent ruby-red glass with a few scattered air bubbles of various sizes; with a slightly concave lip and recessed, very slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding rounded foot rim; the foot engraved in regular script Xianfeng nian Xingyouheng tang zhi 咸豐年行有恒堂製 (‘Made [for] the Hall of Constancy in the Xianfeng era’)
Bottle: 1720-1854
Inscription: possibly 1851-1854
Height: 5.1 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.80/1.43 cm
Stopper: chalcedony; silver collar

Provenance:
Hugh M. Moss Ltd (1983)
Eric Young
Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 28 October 1993, lot 1011

Published:
JICSBS, Summer 1983, back cover
Kleiner 1995, no. 124
Chinese Snuff Bottles from the Collection of Mary and George Bloch (illustrated folder), Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July 1997
Treasury 5, no. 756

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

Some intriguing problems are presented by this impeccably formed and finished bottle. The foot bears the hall name of Zaiquan載銓 (1794 – 1854), great-great-grandson of the Qianlong emperor, and specifies that the bottle was made in the Xianfeng era. The first year of the Xianfeng era was 1851, and Zaiquan died in 1854, so we could establish the date implied by the inscription with some accuracy—if we found the mark credible, which we no longer do.

Zaiquan was a noted collector who added his hall name to a variety of works of art. Kleiner has suggested that this bottle dates from the eighteenth century, and was inscribed by the prince when it came into his possession during the early years of the Xianfeng era. Among his reasons for this belief are that the quality of the glass and workmanship are similar to the eighteenth-century imperial standard, and that glassmaking in the mid-nineteenth century was on record as being of poor quality. We suspect he is right, and the similarity between this and Sale 9, lot 47, which we ascribe to 1723 – 1840, is compelling. We have left a wider dating range for the bottle than for the inscription, while not entirely ruling out the possibility of a date of manufacture from the first half of the nineteenth century.

Certainly the quality of products of the palace glassworks declined during the Jiaqing and Daoguang period. We know that in 1858 the Xianfeng emperor ordered the workshops to make only simple, undecorated wares, with marks clearly rendered (or in regular script: 嗣後玻璃活計要素,俱不拉花,款要真). This strongly suggests that standards of carving and decorating had fallen so low that the emperor, dismayed, restricted production to plain wares. The command regarding marks was apparently in response to careless calligraphy or difficulty with seal-script marks.

 

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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