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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 61 

Lot 61

Lot 61
Treasury 1, no. 159 (‘The ‘Well-Fed Friends’ Jade’)

Nephrite, probably with artificial colour; well hollowed into each half of the double form and each with a concave foot surrounded by a flat foot rim; the black colour possibly enhanced by staining
Height: 4.56 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.73/1.46 cm (each)
Stoppers: tourmaline; vinyl collars

Ko Collection (Beijing, 1924, or Tsinanfu, 1926)
Christie’s, London, 10 June 1974, lot 140
Hugh M. Moss Ltd
Mei Ling Collection
Sotheby’s, New York, 15 March, 1984, lot 190
Hugh M. Moss Ltd (1985)

Treasury 1, no. 159

There are many ways of joining double bottles, but the usual method was to join the narrow sides. Here, the two have been joined at their main sides in an unusual manner.

The form of each is lovely, with a perfectly rounded body offset by a flared neck and matching flared foot. Doubled, the form achieves still greater commanding presence and sculptural sturdiness. The foot is not recessed, having only a simple concavity. This feature also appears on a number of bottles attributable to the court but it was almost certainly not an exclusive court feature and it is insufficient to suggest, other than as a possible avenue of exploration for future researchers, that this bottle is imperial.

The material would not be inherently valuable without the rich black ‘skin’ area, which was probably produced by staining, although it is pleasantly and evenly marked with an interesting series of crackled flaws. With its celadon colouring, its resemblance to a piece of Song porcelain might have brought to it a degree of value for the Chinese aesthete, but it is the black skin that would probably have been more highly valued. Black pebble material was treasured in antiquity, resulting in staining to enhance or entirely simulate the natural material centuries before the snuff bottle was invented. It is difficult to tell visually, even with the help of high-powered magnification, when solid black material of this kind is natural, but as a general rule one tends to be suspicious of anything of this opacity and intensity of black that is so even and without variation in colour or tone until it blends into the core colour.

Staining of material became a standard alternative artistic language for the jade carver centuries before the snuff bottle came along, and it should not be considered in a derogatory light. By the Qing dynasty, it was no different from the painter selecting a colour to enhance a monochrome painting and was often used creatively in a similar fashion.


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