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photographer E-Yaji.

The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part III  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 25 May 2011: Lot 21 

Lot 21

Lot 21
Treasury 5, no. 876

A ruby-red glass overlay ‘crane and monkey’ snuff bottle

(‘High Rank’)

Transparent, ruby-red, and milky glass, suffused with air bubbles of various sizes, some quite large and some elongated; with a flat lip and recessed, convex foot surrounded by a protruding footrim made up of elements of the design; carved as a single overlay with a continuous scene of a crane perched on a large lingzhi and a monkey seated on another, with a third unoccupied, all growing from a woody stem forming the footrim, the monkey beneath a setting of a pine tree, in which an official seal hangs, a bee flying above it, and with a rocky outcrop on one narrow side
Height: 6.08 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.95/1.45 cm
Stopper: glass; tourmaline finial; ivory collar

Lot 21 Provenance:
Zhirou Zhai Collection
Hugh M. Moss Ltd., Hong Kong (1993)

Treasury 5, no. 876

Lot 21 Commentary
The court ordered vast quantities of jades decorated with suitably imperial themes to be carved at Suzhou, and despite the absence so far of evidence suggesting glass-overlay blanks were sent to Suzhou for that purpose, it remains a possibility, as solid blocks of glass did go down to be carved (see Xia Gengqi 1995, p. 26). The glorious rock on one narrow side of this bottle might have been crafted there; it would fit neatly into the less exuberant style of rock carving of the School of Zhiting, which we know to have flourished in the mid-eighteenth century. The bottle is, however, also typical of a broader range of jade carvings probably executed at Suzhou for the Qianlong court and often displaying these impressive, planar, rather abstract, and entirely confident rocks. In fact, this bottle is so stunning that we will boldly stick out our necks and guess that it was made at the imperial glassworks, with carving done by a lapidary trained at Suzhou and co-opted to the palace jade-carving workshops in the early Qianlong period. Indeed, the imperial glassworks and the jade-carving workshops remain the most likely provenance for all the finest of glass overlay bottles—but maintaining an open mind is invariably prudent, for the Suzhou workshops would inevitably have fed the private market, as well.

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