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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 80 

Lot 80

Lot 80
Treasury 3, no. 422 (‘The Silk-worms and Moths Turquoise’)

Turquoise matrix; well hollowed, with a concave lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flat foot rim
Height: 3.76 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.48/1.30 cm
Stopper: coral; gilt-bronze collar

Hugh M. Moss Ltd (1993)

Kleiner 1995, no. 298
Treasury 3, no. 422

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

This magnificent miniature is a close counterpart to Sale 2, lot 38. It is also of unusually brilliant blue colour, with heavy matrix veining, and of a similar form, although here a little patination of the blue colouring to green can be seen on random patches on the pure stone, as opposed to the matrix.

Zhao Zhiqian 趙之謙 in the 1860s commented in a brief entry on turquoise that ‘Many snuff bottles used to be made out of turquoise in bygone times, but none are made now’ (綠松石舊時多製之。今不復作)。 See Lynn 1991, p. 19). If this really reflects the situation in his day, then most of the bottles we are dealing with here must either be eighteenth or early nineteenth century. We have allowed for some to be a bit later, but it may well be that they really did stop making functional turquoise bottles during the first half of the nineteenth century.

The problem is that Zhao’s work is not reliable enough generally to take whatever he says as gospel. There is a series of late, cheap, and poor-quality turquoise bottles with a simple drilled hole to take a spoon but no serious capacity for snuff that can only be late Qing or early twentieth century in date, but it is possible that they were either beyond his ken (being tourist-industry products and probably not offered or even shown to such aesthetes as Zhao and his peers) or made after his comments were made.


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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