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A very rare Imperial four-colour glass Hu-shaped vase. Qianlong inscribed four-character mark and of the period, (1736-1795). Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2010 

Of archaistic bronze shape, the rounded body tapering to a cylindrical neck, the various areas of the body strikingly composed of rich contrasting colours: an ivory body between a dark red band carved with lotus petals below and the dark red neck carved with bands of dragons and upright leaf tips; a pair of lapis-blue dragon head handles suspending stationary rings; and an emerald-green rim; the four characters of the mark spaced evenly around the broad, flat foot surrounding a countersunk cente; 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm.) high - Est. HK$2,000,000 - HK$3,000,000. Price Realized  HK$7,220,000 ($933,548) 

Provenance: Alvin Lo & Co.
The Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong
The Jingguantang Collection, sold at Christie's New York, 16 September 1998, lot 221

Literature: Splendors of Ancient Chinese Art: Selections from the Collections of T.T. Tsui Galleries of Chinese Art Worldwide, Hong Kong, 1996, no. 82 (middle)

Exhibited : Splendors of Ancient Chinese Art: Selections from the Collections of T.T. Tsui Galleries of Chinese Art Worldwide, Hong Kong, 1996, no. 82 (middle)

Notes: The various areas of the vase may be imitating other materials: the ivory body imitating jade; the carved red areas, carved red lacquer; the handles, lapis lazuli; and the rim, emerald green jade.

A similarly designed three-colour glass alms-bowl, unmarked but dated to the Qianlong period, is illustrated by Zhang Rong (ed.), Luster of Autumn Water: Glass of the Qing Imperial Workshop, Forbidden City Publishing House, 2005, p. 209, no. 59, where the author mentions that this type of multi-coloured glass is extremely rare and only three examples are in the Beijing Palace Museum. Also illustrated, p. 283, no. 112, is a five-colour glass vase with red, white and blue diagonally swirled stripes around the body, dark green foot, and turquoise mouth rim, which has the same unusual Qianlong four-character mark, evenly spaced around the bottom of the foot that is found on the present vase, and on another five-colour glass vase in the Palace Museum, illustrated, ibid., no. 51.

Christie's. Luminous Colours: Treasures from the Shorenstein Collection, 1 December 2010, Hong Kong  www.christies.com