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photographer New Owner.
Water, Pine and Stone Retreat. Qianlong  Large picture | Small picture
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 8 October 2009: Lot 1819 

of opaque molten orange, yellow ochre and chrysochlorous greenish gold colour glass swirled together resembling the realgar mineral, the deep rounded sides cut with a short rim around the mouth, the interior pattern with a whirlpool of colours encircling the base, supported on a low straight foot, the recessed base wheel-cut with a four-character mark Qianlong nianzhi enclosed within a double square, wooden stand (fitted box)
17.2 CM.

Japanese Private Collection, circa 1985.
Collection of Tazawa, Kyoto.
Brian Harkins, Ltd., London.
Alvin Lo Oriental Art Ltd., New York, March 2002.

Realgar glass was inspired by the mineral realgar, the name of which is after the Arabic word rak alh ghar meaning ‘dust of the mines’. In China, realgar is called xiong huang, but is more commonly referred to as wuguarang (dwarf melon flesh) and is described by Zhou Jixu, a late Qing period connoisseur, as glass containing blotches of red and yellow arbitrarily pulled together. As the mineral realgar is highly poisonous, it began to be copied in glass which is believed to be amongst the earliest works of the Qing Imperial Glassworks established by the Kangxi emperor in 1696 under the directorship of Jesuit missionary Kilian Stumpf. The beauty of realgar glass lies in the unpredictable patterns that seem to elicit constant change. The simple yet elegant form of this dish with its perfect proportions, combined with the beauty of the swirling patterns in the glass demonstrate the high level of workmanship achieved by artisans employed in the Glass Workshop.

See a glass dish of deep yellow colouration, from the Qing court collection and still in Beijing, of remarkably similar profile and shape, also with a Qianlong four-character wheel-cut reign mark on the base, illustrated in Zhongguo jinyin boli falang qi quanji, vol. 4, Shijiazhuang, 2004, pl. 164. A lemon yellow-glass dish of the same size and form, referred to as ‘manifesting a form that is synonymous with the typical Palace Workshop format’ in the catalogue was included in the exhibition Elegance and Radiance, the Art Museum, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2000, cat. no. 27, from the collection of Andrew K.F. Lee. Compare also a dish of translucent amber colour included ibid., cat. no. 26; and another yellow-glass dish, from the collection of Franz, published in Emily Byrne Curtis, Pure Brightness Shines Everywhere. The Glass of China, Aldershot, 2004, pl. 10.7. A translucent blue-glass dish of this type, attributed to the first-half of the 18th century, from the collection of Robert H. Clague, was included in the exhibition Chinese Glass of the Qing Dynasty, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, 1988, cat. no. 8.

For examples of realgar-glass wares see two mallet vases, one in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Luster of Autumn Water. Glass of the Qing Imperial Workshop, Beijing, 2005, pl. 25, and also in Zhongguo jin yin boli falang qi quanji, vol. 4, Shijiazhuang, 2004, pl. 216, and the other in this collection, lot 1802. See also a hexafoil vase, from the Sloane Collection published in R. Soame Jenyns, Chinese Art. The Minor Arts, II, London, 1965, pl. 81, together with a snuff bottle, pl. 201f. The Sloane collection also contains two realgar glass cups and a bowl. Further examples of glass snuff bottles are published in Chinese Snuff Bottles from the Collection of the Rt. Hon. The Marquees of Exeter K.C.M.G., London, 1974, pl. G11; and a bottle attributed to the Palace Workshop, the body suffused with patches of bright red and yellow, is illustrated in Chinese Snuff Bottles from the Burghley House Collection, Stamford, England, Hong Kong, 1989, pl. 5.


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