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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 100 

Lot 100

Lot 100
Treasury 2, no. 359 (‘Prince Ding’s Moss Agate Cylinder’)

Dendritic chalcedony with gold pigment; very well hollowed, with a rounded, flat-topped lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a narrow flat foot rim, its inner edge sloping towards the foot; the foot incised in regular script Xingyouheng tang 行有恒堂 (‘Hall of Constancy’), the incisions bearing traces of gold pigment
Probably imperial, probably palace workshops, Beijing, probably 1780 – 1853
Height: 5.62 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.58/1.12 cm
Stopper: amethyst with integral finial and collar

Condition Report: The overall condition is very good, with only some expected light wear to the lip. The stone has some natural inclusions and surface pitting.

Mr & Mrs Charles McCullagh
Robert Kleiner (1993)

JICSBS, Autumn 1993, inside back cover
Kleiner 1995, no. 252
Treasury 2, no. 359

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

This is a magnificent example of the rare tapering-cylinder group exemplified by Sale 5, lot 77 with the hall mark of Yongxing 永瑆, 1752–1823, eleventh son of the Qianlong emperor, and by Sale 6, lot 194. However, it is the material exception in the small group, being made of dendritic chalcedony of the type known as moss-agate, with an unusually fine network of inclusions. It is the narrowest of the three, but is very similarly hollowed and has the same foot and neck-rim details.

The mark on the base is that of the fifth Prince Ding (定郡王, Zaiquan 載銓1794 – 1854). Two other bottles belonging to him, lots 77 and 190 in the present auction, bear cyclical dates corresponding to 1849 and 1851, respectively.

Zaiquan inherited the title of Prince Ding only in 1836, but his ownership of the Xingyouheng tang has nothing to do with that elevation. We have no way of knowing at what point he started to use this name to inscribe his works of art, but we do know that he was using the title in 1848, since he published a collection of verses under the title Xingyouheng Tang chuji 行有恒堂初集 (First collection from the Xingyouheng tang) in that year.

There are traces of gold pigment in the incisions for the mark, suggesting that it was once filled with gold. It seems to have been the custom to fill incising in either gold or red (for discussion, see Sale 2, lot 22) during the mid-Qing period, and there is one imperial jadeite bottle in this collection that has calligraphy filled with green pigment (Sale 1, lot 21).

Incised marks, of course, can be added at any time after a bottle is produced and in many cases there may be no way to establish whether that was five minutes or a century or more afterwards. There can be no doubt that marks have been added to existing snuff bottles, particularly in the late-Qing/Republican period and again since the late twentieth century. In some cases, the style of the inscription may help to establish its authenticity and it will be possible, given more research, to establish the styles of script and workmanship used by certain fakers, including recent fakers involved in adding marks, often at the behest of unscrupulous dealers. Although we may be entirely confident of some studio names and reign marks, others must remain suspicious until further research clarifies their status. The style of writing here raises the possibility that the mark may have been added later.


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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