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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 49 

Lot 49


Lot 49
Treasury 2, no. 286

The Belfort Manchu and Camel Chalcedony

Chalcedony; well but slightly irregularly hollowed with a recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; a natural darker plane in the stone edited on one side to create a midday scene of some kind of official seated on the back of a camel and holding a fruiting branch, with a racoon dog on the ground beside him, the sun above
Official school, 1760–1860
Height: 6.7 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.76/2.05 and 1.80 cm (oval)
Stopper: glass, deliberately crackled to simulate tourmaline; silver collar

Lot 49 Provenance:
Hugh Moss (1980)
Belfort Collection (1986)

JICSBS, December 1977, p. 19, no. 26
Snuff Bottles of the Ch’ing Dynasty, p. 114, no. 202
Jutheau 1980, p. 101, fig. 4
Jours de France, 17 July 1982
Très précieuses tabatières chinoises, p. 14, no. 170
The Snuff Bottle Review, March 1983, p. 14
Kleiner 1987, no. 159
1987 Exhibition Poster, London
Kleiner 1994a, p. 44
JICSBS, Autumn 1997, p. 10
Treasury 2, no. 286
Hong Kong Museum of Art, October–December 1978
L’Arcade Chaumet, Paris, June 1982
Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
Galeries Lafayette, Paris, April 1990

Lot 49 Commentary:
One of the masterpieces of the silhouette-agate genre, with a complex and meaningful subject achieved with astonishing clarity, this much published and exhibited bottle has so often been described as a natural or almost natural design that it has previously escaped closer examination, even by one of the present authors. Until working on this collection, there has been a tendency for anything in silhouette form to be taken for granted as being mostly natural, whereas, as we have pointed out (Treasury 2,) a great many are nothing of the sort. They are silhouettes with a thin plane of colour cut through, but at so shallow a depth, as to appear to be largely natural (see discussion under Treasury 2, no. 274). In this example, close examination reveals that only the paler muzzle of the camel, a delightful touch, has no surface editing. Even the halter which hangs from the muzzle, also in the paler colour, is edited. Another unedited element is the sun, at the neck of the bottle above the figure if, indeed, it is intended as such rather than just being leftover colour from the thin plane used for the main design.

This is one of the large group of figure subjects from the Official school, which we have suggested may have flourished during the nineteenth century, although from earlier origins (see under Treasury 2, no. 292). These figure subjects form a large sub-group of the Official school and others are nos. 128 and 129 in the J & J Collection (Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993) and in the Bloch Collection, Treasury 2, nos. 284 and 288–293. Although the recessed foot is flat, the very slightly lazy hollowing of the inner shoulders suggests a hint of decline (see discussion on Treasury 2, p. 11 and under no. 271) and this may be a late Qianlong work, or from the early nineteenth century.


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