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A yellow glass 'kui dragons' snuff bottle ('Imperial Show Stopper'). Treasury 5, no. 828. Imperial glassworks, Beijing, 1736–1770. Photo Bonhams

bubbles; with a flat lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding, rounded footrim; carved with a continuous formalized archaistic design of a band of confronting kui dragons framed top and bottom by lotus petals and set on an engraved, floral diaper ground, with further lotus-petal borders at the upper neck and around the base, the narrow sides with antelope handles. Height: 6.37 cm. Mouth/lip: 0.85/1.63 cm. Stopper: coral; pearl finial; turquoise collar; probably original. Sold for HK$ 432,000

Condition: workshop condition

Provenance:: Unrecorded source (prior to 1973)
Hugh Moss (1981)
Belfort Collection (1986)

Published: : Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, p. 68, no. 65
Stevens 1976, no.186
Très précieuses tabatières chinoises 1982, p. 13, no. 69
Kleiner 1987, no. 66
Kleine Schätze aus China 1993, cover and p. 6
Kleiner 1995, no. 113
Next Magazine, March 1997, p. 128
Treasury 5, no. 828

Exhibited:: Hugh M. Moss Ltd, October 1974
Hong Kong Museum of Art, October-December 1978
L'Arcade Chaumet, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, June - August 1982
Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May-June 1993
British Museum, London, June-October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July-November 1997

Commentary: This is one of a small group of spectacular imperial yellow glass snuff bottles that we can confidently attribute to the imperial glassworks, and probably to the first half of the Qianlong period. A remarkably similar bottle, formerly in the Edmund F. Dwyer Collection, bears an unquestionably genuine Qianlong reign mark in a style commensurate with the beginning of the reign (Christie's, London, 12 October 1987, lot 73 and Christie's, New York, 3 December 1992, lot 364) and another, from the Wise Collection (Stevens 1976, no. 186) also bears a genuine Qianlong reign mark, although this is not mentioned in the caption. Another example, lacking a reign mark, is in the Mullin Collection (ibid., no. 188 and Chinese Snuff Bottles No. 5, p. 25 fig. 8). The Dwyer bottle exhibits similar handles, although with a squarer snout more closely resembling that of a buffalo. This beast also appears as part of the main decoration, where it is unambiguously bovine, raising the possibility that the antelopes here are self-conscious buffaloes illustrating the benefits of a little Californian surgery.

Our attribution to the imperial glassworks is based upon the imperial yellow colour and the impeccable level of carving. The style of this example is found in other materials, such as nephrite.

One of the most spectacular of the group, this was a great favourite of Hugh Moss's during the many years when it resided comfortably in his private collection, being quite the most spectacular imperial yellow glass he owned. It is alarming, however, that in all the years of ownership, and all the years it has been in the Belfort Collection - which he knew well - not to mention the Bloch Collection, where he has played a curatorial role, he overlooked one blindingly obvious fact: the stopper appears to be the original one. It is thus one of the few bottles of a type always intended to have a contrasting stopper where we can be reasonably certain this is the case. While we can never be absolutely sure of originality as opposed to suitability with regard to contrasting stoppers, we are confident that this was indeed originally designed for the bottle, for a number of reasons. It fits perfectly and looks splendid, fulfilling two timeless criteria for stoppers. It is obviously old, with well-patinated surfaces, particularly evident from the turquoise collar, whose slightly discolouration renders it an even green on the outside edge but a paler colour underneath, where it was protected from both light and the touch of the hand. The collar is not the customary flawed turquoise, with traces of the common brown matrix, but is of even, flawless colour, extremely rare for a turquoise collar, while the coral is similarly flawless and of brilliant colour. In addition, the coral cabochon itself is of deep, even, and flawless colour. Were a transcendently fine snuff bottle to be made for the emperor, it would indubitably have been crowned using the finest materials available. Atop the coral we find not the usual discreet, small bead finial, but half of a fine pearl. This treasure was associated with the emperor and reserved for his court hat. Finally, the stopper still possesses what appears to be the original spoon, typical of the beautifully carved and imaginative spoons of the Qianlong palace workshops, produced, no doubt, in the imperial atelier. Its shaft is so elegant and thin that its survival is little short of miraculous. It is of ideal length, as defined by other examples where we may be equally sure that the spoon is the original.

黃玻璃刻夔紋鼻煙壺

透亮的黃玻璃,零星的小氣泡;平唇,微凸斂底,突出圓棱圈足;雕兩相對夔紋,言一層上下各飾一圈蓮瓣紋,頸部和腹下部各亦飾一圈蓮瓣紋,羚羊啣環耳,壺地刻菱形花紋
北京御用玻璃作坊,1736-1770
高:6.37 厘米
口經/唇經:0.85/1.63 厘米
蓋: 珊瑚; 珍珠頂飾; 綠松石座; 大概是原件

狀態敘述: 出作坊狀態

來源:Unrecorded source (prior to 1973)
Hugh Moss (1981)
Belfort Collection (1986)

文獻: Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, p. 68, 編號 65
Stevens 1976, no.186
Très précieuses tabatières chinoises 1982, p. 13, 編號 69
Kleiner 1987, 編號 66
Kleine Schätze aus China 1993, cover and p. 6
Kleiner 1995, 編號 113
Next Magazine, March 1997, p. 128
Treasury 5, 編號 828

展覽:  Hugh M. Moss Ltd, October 1974
Hong Kong Museum of Art, October-December 1978
L'Arcade Chaumet, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, June - August 1982
Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May-June 1993
British Museum, London, June-October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July-November 1997

說明: 其他黃玻璃御製煙壺和詳細論述,請參閱本壺的英文說明。本壺是莫士撝珍藏裏的寶貝,它在Belfort珍藏和伯樂珍藏的時候,莫氏從來沒有意識到,蓋肯定是原件。它跟壺身很符合,肯定是舊的;座的顏色很均勻,不像一般性的綠松石座,而珊瑚上的頂飾不是平常的小珠子,是高級珍珠的半球。從各個方面看,它一定是給乾隆皇帝作的。

Bonhams. FINE CHINESE ART, 25 May 2011 to 26 May 2011, Hong Kong, Island Shangri-La Hotel www.bonhams.com