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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 64 

Lot 64

Lot 64
Treasury 2, no. 199 (‘The Zhirou Zhai Entangling Thin Thread Agate’)

Dendritic agate; very well hollowed, with a very slightly concave lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding flat foot rim rounded at the edges
Height: 5.59 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.69/1.92 cm
Stopper: carnelian-agate; vinyl collar

Zhirou Zhai Collection
Hugh M. Moss Ltd (1993)

Treasury 2, no. 199

This is one of the materials that appear to have been barely, if ever, used in China before the evolution of the snuff bottle in the mid- to late-seventeenth century. We are uncertain whether this is because it was simply not available or because until the snuff bottle came along, with its massive concurrent demand for intriguing materials and vastly increased production of small, hand-held works of art, too little demand existed to make it sufficiently valuable to mine in any quantity.

The material here is very unusual for the snuff-bottle world in being a combination of an evocative pattern of the common green material with an area of a much rarer, unusually even and richly-coloured mahogany-red. The artist has also used the material cleverly to divide one main face into two distinct areas vertically while leaving the neck green.

The formal integrity here is excellent, the hollowing extremely painstaking, leaving thin and even walls (standard for a wide range of better-quality chalcedony and crystal bottles) and the detailing of mouth, neck, and foot good, although the foot has the slightly lazier, recessed convex foot that may indicate that it is from the period of general decline, perhaps from the early nineteenth century.

The surface polish on chalcedony bottles tends to be consistently faultless, even on bottles of lesser quality as art. Chalcedony, with its hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale, obviously took as standard a high and very even sheen when polished, and nothing less seems to have been considered acceptable. The hardness of the material also seems to have ensured that this sheen remains, in most cases, much as it probably was on the day it was 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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