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Sotheby's presents snuff bottles from the Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII
The sale features over 180 snuff bottles from the world’s greatest collection - showcasing the rich diversity and artistic skill of Qing Dynasty craftsmanship. Photo: Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- Following the success of the previous snuff bottle sale in May 2013, in which all 170 lots were sold with the sale total of HK$34.2 million / US$4.4 million and more than a half of them selling above the pre-sale high estimates, Sotheby’s Hong Kong presents the sale of Snuff Bottles From The Mary And George Bloch Collection: Part VII on 26th November 2013 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery. The sale consists of 183 lots of snuff bottles of every category and genre estimated to achieve in excess of HK$18.3 million / US$2.33 million*.

Julian King, Sotheby’s International Specialist of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Department, said, “The Mary and George Bloch Collection is undoubtedly the greatest collection of snuff bottles in private hands, and it is a privilege for us to be entrusted with its continual sales. This sale includes a truly diverse range of bottles, reflecting the rich diversity and artistic skill of Qing dynasty craftsmanship, which will attract the attention of collectors from all over the world.”

Originally numbering over 1,700 bottles, the Mary and George Bloch Collection is legendary and counts among the finest Chinese snuff bottles ever made for the Imperial court and scholarly elite. Snuff (ground tobacco) was introduced to China in the 17th century by Western travellers. Given the humid climate in Asia, the traditional Western snuffboxes were replaced by small airtight bottles which kept the powder in dry condition. Chinese snuff bottles were produced in a wide range of materials, from enamelled metal to carved agate and inside-painted glass, representing the breadth of Qing art in miniature form. The Bloch collection has been extensively published and exhibited at international institutions such as the British Museum and the Hong Kong Museum of Art.

A Fine Imperial Enamelled Glass ‘Double-Gourd’ Snuff bottle
Palace Workshops, Blue Enamel Mark and Period of Qianlong
Est. HK$1.4 - 2 million / US$179,400 - 256,400

The highlight of the sale is one of the finest quality enamel on glass snuff bottles remaining in private hands, an auspicious double-gourd bottle enamelled in ruby-red and white with stylised floral medallions, inscribed on the base with a four-character blue-enamel Qianlong reign mark. It is notable for the elegance and simplicity of its two-colour design, contrasting with other enamel on glass bottles, which have a denser design in ‘famille rose’ enamels. The sheer skill of the enameller is demonstrated by the bold but subtle inclusion of a tiny yin-yang, a Daoist symbol hidden amidst the floral medallions.

An Imperial Moulded Porcelain ‘Double-Gourd’ ‘Puddingstone-Imitation’ Snuff Bottle
Seal Mark And Period of Qianlong
Est. HK$200,000 - 250,000 / US$25,600 - 32,100

This extraordinary porcelain snuff bottle, moulded in the form of a double-gourd and painted to simulate puddingstone, is a unique example. The trend for imitation in porcelain began in the Yongzheng period at Jingdezhen, under the supervision of Tang Ying, director of the Imperial kilns. There are several examples of ‘puddingstone-imitation’ porcelain vessels from the Imperial collection, including an incense burner in Beijing and a brushpot in Shenyang, but no other snuff bottle of this form appears to be preserved in any museum or private collection. The mark is inscribed on the base in gold seal script.

A Baltic Amber ‘Double-Gourd’ Snuff Bottle
Qing Dynasty, Mid-18th / Early 19th Century
Est. HK$260,000 - 300,000 / US$33,300 - 38,500

Baltic amber of this spectacular yellowish-orange colour was an expensive commodity in the mid-Qing dynasty, and most snuff bottles carved from it were therefore left plain and undecorated. This example, intricately carved in the form of a large double gourd with eight additional double gourds issuing from a leafy vine, is extremely rare and auspicious.

A Black and White Jade ‘Immortals at Play’ Snuff Bottle
Suzhou, Qing Dynasty, 18th / 19th Century
Est. HK$1 - 1.2 million / US$128,200 - 153,800

This finely carved jade bottle is one of the largest and most outstanding examples produced at Suzhou. The stone itself is a spectacular combination of black and white, which has been skillfully utilised by the craftsman to produce a composition of Immortals playing a game and being served auspicious peaches amidst a wondrous landscape scene.

Two Imperial Beijing Enamel Snuff Bottles
Blue Enamel Mark and Period of Qianlong
Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period
Est. HK$2.5 - 3 million / US$320,500 - 384,600

The two Beijing enamel snuff bottles are both brilliantly enamelled with auspicious emblems of longevity, the first with a fruiting peach tree, bats and lingzhi, and the second with bees and butterflies. They are extremely rare amongst Beijing enamel bottles for being enamelled on the interior in white, rather than turquoise-blue, and were clearly an innovation produced for the Imperial Court in the late Qianlong period.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium and prices achieved include the hammer price plus buyer’s premium.

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