Glass Overlay;  DOUBLE;  translucent milky white on transparent sapphire-blue on translucent white glass;
Lot 8
A double-overlay sapphire-blue and white glass 'dragon' snuff bottle Attributed to the Imperial glassworks, Beijing, 1760–1790
Sold for HK$ 672,000 (US$ 86,660) inc. premium
Lot Details
A double-overlay sapphire-blue and white glass 'dragon' snuff bottle
Attributed to the Imperial glassworks, Beijing, 1760–1790
6.82cm high.


  • Treasury 5, no. 1001


    Star-Tailed Dragon

    Translucent milky white, transparent sapphire-blue, and translucent white glass; with a flat lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; carved as a double overlay with a continuous design of two four-clawed dragons, one amidst formalized clouds, the other rising from formalized waves
    Attributed to the imperial glassworks, Beijing, 1760–1790
    Height: 6.82 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.70/1.42 cm
    Stopper: ivory; gilt-bronze collar
    Condition: exposed bubble at the outer lip filled with dirt resembles a chip, but is not; it is part of the original process, although the dirt has accumulated later; tiny pale 'stone' (an impurity left as an inclusion in the glass of the original batch) towards the end of the dragon's tail appears a paler, beige colour; again, part of the original process; probable minor recutting of the edges of upper cloud formations: not obtrusive; minor abrasions to the flat footrim from use. General relative condition: extremely good

    Robert Kleiner (1991)
    JICSBS, Winter 1992, front cover
    Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 120
    Treasury 5, no. 1001, and front and back covers of one volume
    Hong Kong Museum of Art, March-June 1994
    National Museum, Singapore, November 1994-February 1995

    This bottle is technically one of the finest and artistically one of the most spectacular known pieces of later Chinese glass. Comparing it with Treasury 5, nos. 1002 and 1003 where three different colours are contrasted, demonstrates the refinement of producing an essentially straightforward double overlay not only with two colours the same, but a visually undemanding white. Combined with an attractive form, magnificent design, masterly balance of lines between the upper and middle planes of colour, and breathtaking command of the medium, it is revealed as a transcendent masterpiece. Some earlier bottles display finer detail and more perfect finish (the ground plane here undulates very slightly, but not enough to disturb the eye), but nothing is endowed with more striking power in the combination of visual impact, artistic quality, and technical control. On an 'Ooomph' scale of one to ten, this is an emphatic, unquestionable, unanimous ten (and we briefly considered eleven).

    We discussed under Treasury 5, no. 940 its relationship to a group of dragon carvings which we believe spans the late Qianlong period and extends into the nineteenth century, where the characteristics of the group were examined. That example bears a cyclical date that corresponds to 1780. We believe this to be an imperial product, for if it is not, there seems little point in the Qianlong emperor having his own workshops, to which he could co-opt all the best carvers. Another example, related to this bottle, in white with a red middle plane and a white ground, has the plantain neck of Treasury 5, nos. 1002-1004 (China Guardian, Beijing, 21 April 1999, lot 1100) and a dragon clearly related to this one, while the plantain neck and lesser quality link it to the others. A useful clue is provided by its five-clawed dragon since at that time such beasts were the exclusive prerogative of the imperial family. We noted under Treasury 5, no. 940 that the entire group, including this example, was linked through a series of poems in seal script to a group of other likely imperial wares, including the bannerman bottles discussed under Treasury 5, no. 893. We also noted that dragons, some with five claws, were a mainstay of the group. At the same time, however, it was common practice for the court to produce four-clawed dragon decoration on works of art for distribution to the ennobled. The early nineteenth-century decline in palace arts, including carving, is widely acknowledged, documented, and evident in other wares. Thus, in view of the comparisons we can make with this collection, and the extraordinary quality of this bottle, we believe that it must be from around the same time as Treasury 5, no. 940—give or take a decade. As a work of art it fits comfortably into the late Qianlong period. The extraordinary quality of this example, surpassing even that of the dated one, further suggests that this probably preceded it, hence our dating. The footrim is deep, very crisp, and sharp-edged, being as confident as any carved, and the line at the meeting of the white rim and the blue of the foot is admirably controlled, all constituting further indication of an eighteenth-century date. The only hint of a late eighteenth-century date here might be the fact that the middle of the foot fades to the paler under-colour, but it does so very evenly in contrast to the irregular bleeding exhibited by so many nineteenth-century glass bottles.

    The motif of the dragon and clouds, signifying vast good fortune, is discussed under Treasury 5, no. 978. The standard design of a large dragon in the sky, above a smaller one emerging from the waves, illustrates the saying: 'The hoary dragon teaching its young' (canglong jiaozi), an allusion to the loving guidance a father would give to his son.

    Were practically every group of overlay bottles not related to every other, we would have given names to some of the core groups. This was to have been described as made by the 'Star-tailed Dragon Master.' A problem arising from any such effort is that we are not sure to what extent the master is the designer or the carver. In the imperial workshops of the Qianlong emperor there were doubtless carvers who, given the incentive, could produce a masterpiece of this sort, and the artistic personality may reside more in the artist who drew up the design than in any individual carver.


    通體乳白色半透明玻璃 ,套飾寶藍、白色透明料;平唇、斂凸底、平底圈足;二層料雕二條四爪龍,一條踩雲紋而行,一條由浪濤紋升

    高:6.82 厘米

    Robert Kleiner (1991)
    《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society 1992 冬期,封面
    Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, 編號120
    Treasury 5, 編號 1001 與第三冊封面與封底
    香港藝術館,1994年3 月至6月
    National Museum of Singapore, 1994年11月至1995年2 月

    Treasury 5編號940 是庚子(1780)年製的套料煙壺,一面上雕呈的四爪雲龍像本壺的雲行龍一樣,細長的尾巴終端有五腕海星形的附屬物。我們認為那個煙壺是朝廷玻璃廠的產品。有另一個與本壺和本壺的龍有關的白地,紅、白二色套料的煙壺,可是它像Treasury 5編號1002~1004一樣,唇緣下雕呈芭蕉葉紋(中國嘉德國際拍賣有限公司,北京,1999年4月21日,拍賣品號1100),品質也不如本壺好。且看本壺五爪龍,根據清代官袍文飾的規定來推測,帶五爪龍的煙不是皇上或皇太子親用,只有官民因有功而奉上特賜才能得到這類煙壺。在清後期會有人忽略王朝這類規矩,不過,因為本壺品質高,不呈示朝廷工藝從十九世紀初開始的衰退,我們認定它跟上舉Treasury 5編號940那壺是同時作的,至多相差十年。視之為乾隆晚期的物品最合適。圈足深,雕得乾淨利落,白色的圈足和藍足的交接線很穩妥,這也都是十八世紀的特徵。足的寶藍色從邊緣到中心逐漸變淡,這會表明本壺是十八世紀後期的產物,但值得注意的是,這個現象並不像十九世紀玻璃煙壺常見的不整齊的滲色。

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