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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 19 

Lot 19

Lot 19
Treasury 7, no. 1512 (‘Mack’s Moulded Mandarin’)

Orange peel, wood, and brown and cinnabar-red lacquer; with a flat lip and no functional foot; grown into a mould to create framed panels on four sides and the base; one main side with a low-relief blossoming prunus tree growing near a rocky outcrop, the other with a relief inscription in cursive script, Xiang qing yi shou 香清益壽 [‘Fragrance pure adds to longevity’], flanked by a dedication, the two narrow sides each with a shuangxi 雙喜 (‘double happiness’) design, the foot with a plain oval panel, the relief details of the two main-side panels lacquered red, and the base panel painted in red with the cyclical date guiwei 癸未, all on a brown lacquered ground; the inner neck lined with wood; the interior left rough
Probably 1823 (possibly 1763 or 1883)
Height: 5.59 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.72/1.34 cm
Stopper: coral; plastic collar

Gerry P. Mack
Emily Byrne Curtis (1986)
Robert Kleiner

Chinese Snuff Bottles 3 (1966), p. 39, fig. 33, and p. 64, lower left
Kleiner 1987, no. 198
Orientations, October 1987, p. 44, fig. 17
Arts of Asia, September–October 1990, p. 93
Treasury 7, no. 1512

Newark Museum, October–November 1982
Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

The artist here has responded to the obvious care that had gone into preparing a complex mould by fitting a very neat wooden inner neck to help hold the shape. Some types of orange skin, particularly mandarins and tangerines, when cleaned of their fruit and dried, are thin; the addition of the wooden liner makes a big difference to the strength of the neck and to the appearance of the bottle when in use.

Another problem with dried and emptied citrus peel is that they can dry out very rough on the inside—clearly evident in this example, where the interior looks like a miniature relief map of some of the less hospitable parts of Afghanistan.

This snuff bottle appears to have been made as a wedding gift, since the two narrow sides both have in relief the traditional double-happiness ideogram that is ubiquitous at Chinese weddings.

The dedication is XX xiong zhuzheng □□兄屬正, with the undeciphered characters probably reading Yunglang 雲郎 or Yunqing 雲卿; both names are known, and of course we do not know who this person is.

This is one of the rare examples where we have the luxury of a cyclical date conveniently lacquered onto the base, albeit with no indication of the correct cycle. Guiwei corresponds to 1823, which we think is the most likely date, but sixty years either side cannot be entirely ruled out.

The reason it is most likely to be from 1823 is that it was probably inspired by moulded-gourd snuff bottles, which we know flourished in the mid-Qing, from the late Qianlong period into the Daoguang era. A date sixty years earlier would seem to isolate it from the influence of this fashion, and by 1883 the trend had weakened considerably. The fad for moulding fruits into snuff bottles would not have lasted indefinitely, since this was not the ideal material for producing snuff bottles. It is far more likely that this bottle was a Daoguang response, thus 1823.


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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