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photographer E-Yaji.
Snuff Bottles from the Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part I  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 May 2010: Lot 63 

Lot 63


Lot 63
Treasury 5, no. 727

Blue of the Night

Translucent greyish, beige-streaked white glass with deep, olive-green inclusions (appearing as black in normal light), sandwiched between two layers of transparent sapphire-blue glass, suffused with small air bubbles; with a flat lip and flat foot
Height: 5.72 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.69/1.58 cm
Stopper: carnelian; gilt-bronze collar

Lot 63 Provenance:
Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (1978)
Gerd Lester (1986)

Arts and Antiques, July-August 1983, p.71           
Kleiner 1987, no.73
 Arts of Asia, September-October 1990, p.97, fig. 31
Treasury 5, no. 727

Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May-June 1993

Lot 63 Commentary
This represents one of the most common forms for sandwiched glass bottles from the first half of the Qing dynasty; its narrow sides provide irrefutable evidence that it was blown into a mould. The angle of the body, observed from above, is tapered towards the narrow sides, creating a form which, while easy to achieve in a mould, would not only be unnatural for a freely-blown form, but also more difficult to achieve. However skilfully the lapidary may have finished the outside, removing any hint of the gap between the mould-lines, the inside betrays the truth. With realgar-glass bottles, often blown into similarly shaped moulds, we have seen how a thin layer of surface overlay is lost to the lapidary where it is blown into the gap between the mould-halves. This phenomenon rarely occurs in the case of sandwiched bottles, because the outer layer is always thick and even enough to allow for a little lapidary loss on the outside without revealing any difference in colour, whereas on the inside the line of the mould is clearly visible. Because of the gap between the mould-halves, the air inside forces the exterior wall into it but at the same time, creates an equivalent indentation inside, running along the mould-line. This is clearly visible here when the bottle is in the hand. On Treasury 5, no. 730 it is still more obvious on the inside and even apparent as a small ridge on the outside surface. The hint of a similar external ridge is also visible here.

Bottles of this type appear in many early collections and although they might still have been produced in the late Qing dynasty, it seems more likely that they represent a style of bottle popular mainly during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Several are in the Victoria & Albert Museum, entering the collection in 1901, having previously been in the Museum of Practical Geology. As non-mineral specimens, they were unlikely to have been acquired after 1880 (White 1990, pl. 66, where no. 5 is a type of glass related to this example, and pl. 67).

Although the outer layer of this bottle has been described elsewhere as colourless, it is in reality transparent sapphire-blue. This is evident from the white sandwiched layer of powdered glass which emerges at the mouth as a concentric circle and shows as pale sapphire-blue through the outer layer. While many such sandwiched bottles do have colourless glass outer layers, others have transparent colours, adding considerably to the potential for variation of the sandwiched colour. This is illustrated by Treasury 5, no. 728, which has a transparent emerald-green outer layer. The present example, however, is among the more spectacular bottles in this broad range, of a rare colour combination, and certainly as striking as Treasury 5, no. 728.


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