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photographer E-Yaji.
Snuff Bottles from the Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part II  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 23 November 2010: Lot 45 

Lot 45


Lot 45
Treasury 7, no. 1477

Bulbous Gentleman

Bamboo; well hollowed, with a flat lip and concave foot
Height: 6.89 cm (including original stopper)
Mouth/lip: 0.71/1.23 cm
Stopper: bamboo with integral finial, collar, and cork; original

Lot 45 Provenance:
Mrs John Sheafe Douglas (no. 587)
Private collection, California
Chinese Porcelain Company, New York (1992)

Chinese Porcelain Company 1992, no. 77
Kleiner 1995, no. 337
Treasury 7, no. 1477

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

Lot 45 Commentary
With its generous form, sumptuous patination, and rare original matching stopper, this is unquestionably one of the masterpieces of plain bamboo snuff bottles. It is well hollowed and has as rich a patination as may be found on any bamboo snuff bottle. With many organic materials, it is often difficult to judge to what extent the colouring is due to original staining and to what extent it is natural patination through use. We suspect this bottle was originally stained, but the richness of the surface texture owes a great deal to subsequent handling and polishing.

Remarkably, it has retained its original stopper. The collar overlaps the diameter of the neck, providing much easier removal. Although we modern snuff-bottle collectors tend to match precisely the diameter of the collar (or stopper, if no collar is present) to the diameter of the lip, a slight overhang facilitates grasping the stopper. The projecting collar would not work visually on all shapes, but it works on some. Another bottle from the same workshop, of similar but slightly narrower form and with a similar original matching stopper, was in the Ko Collection, Christie’s, London, 8 November 1976, lot 184. This type of stopper is of typically imperial shape, with its integral finial and collar, which may indicate an imperial origin. But courtly taste in stoppers must surely have affected taste elsewhere, so the existence of an imperial type of stopper need not necessarily indicate an imperial product.

Despite all of this speculation as to the bottle’s original status, it remains one of the most beautiful, formally satisfying, and well patinated of all surviving plain bamboo bottles. It is also of a rare form, with its unusual portly shape.


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Hugh Moss |