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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 24 

Lot 24

 

Lot 24
Treasury 1, no. 102

The Linked-Bi Imperial Yellow Jade

Nephrite; carved with four huan discs linked to each other and to the upper and lower borders by twinned ropes, the borders made up of formalized lingzhi heads and raised bosses flanked on one side by a raised line, the foot incised in seal script Qianlong nian zhi (‘Made in the Qianlong period’)
Imperial, attributed to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1736–1799
Height: 6.85 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.87/1.64 cm
Stopper: nephrite; with integral collar and finial, the latter carved as a bud set above a band of formalized petals, and with integral cork; original

Lot 24 Provenance:
Christie’s, New York, 9 and 11 May 1981, lot 399
Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (1982)
Belfort Collection (1986)

Published:
Très précieuses tabatières chinoises 1982, p. 15, no. 204
Kleiner 1987, no. 24
Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 22
Oriental Art, Spring 1994, p. 36
Kleiner 1995, no. 38
Treasury 1, no. 102

Exhibited:
L’Arcade Chaumet, Paris, June 1982
Sydney L. Moss Ltd. London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum, Singapore, November 1994–February 1995
British Museum, June–October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

Lot 24 Commentary
It would be difficult to imagine a more imperial jade snuff bottle from the Qianlong period than this one. A number of factors allow a fairly confident attribution to the palace workshops. Yellow jade was a favourite of the Qianlong emperor. Other characteristic features include the typical flat upper neck rim (see discussion under Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993,no. 34), crisp, flared foot (possibly inspired by ancient bronzes in the imperial collection), and a wide mouth through which the hollowing stops short of the foot by 1.2 cm, leaving a typically heavy base area (providing stability for bottles that stood at the ready on palace shelves). It also has a standard Beijing stopper, with integral collar and finial and the integral jade ‘cork’ discussed under Treasury 1, no. 99. The four-character mark, which appears to have been the most common mark for the Qianlong imperial jade-carving workshops, is exquisitely written. Both form and design are archaistic, no doubt inspired by ancient bronzes and jades from the imperial collection. It is based upon a type of hu, and the rope design is taken from Han bronze decoration, while the huan discs are copied from jade carvings of the Neolithic to Han periods. The lingzhi-pattern borders with interspersed raised dots are also a staple of imperial works of art from the eighteenth century, while the linked discs appear on other palace works of art of the Qianlong period, including imperial enamelled wares (see, for instance, Kleiner 1987, no. 4).

With its colour, imposing form, archaistic decoration, matching stopper and superbly carved mark, this bottle is the epitome of imperial jade carving from the Qianlong period. Recent studies of the imperial collection in conjunction with the archives of the Qing dynasty suggest that for the first twenty-five years of his reign the Qianlong emperor concentrated imperial jade production on copying ancient jades and other antiquities (see Seattle Art Museum, Watt, and Knight 1989, p. 74). This does not mean that production of such wares did not continue until the end of his reign; this bottle could have been made at any time during his sixty-year rule or the four years after his abdication until he died in 1799. A date early in the reign, however, would not be unlikely.

A glass overlay bottle of similar design probably from the palace workshops is also in the Bloch Collection (see Kleiner 1987, no. 91). A related bottle in white nephrite, with loose ring handles, similar ropework and ring decoration, a four-character Qianlong reign mark, and an original stopper with integral cork, was in the Dwyer Collection (Christie’s, London, 12 October 1987, lot 241, also illustrated, JICSBS, Winter 1987, p. 26, fig. 2, and JICSBS, Autumn 1987, p.2, top left).

 

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