Transparent aquamarine-blue glass, with one or two small air bubbles; with a concave lip and recessed, slightly concave foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; carved on one main side with Shoulao, the God of Longevity, holding a gnarled staff to which a double gourd is attached while he holds the lower end of a scroll (its upper end held in the mouth of a flying bat) the centre of which bears a yin-yang symbol, his familiar deer reclining at his feet 1750-1830 Height: 5.1 cm Mouth/lip: 0.99/2.02 cm Stopper: coral; gilt-bronze collar
Condition: possible repair to polish out chip on inside of footrim, small chip on outer footrim; miniscule chip on outer lip; otherwise, workshop condition
Provenance: Paula J. Hallett Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (1986)
Exhibited: Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987 Creditanstalt, Vienna, May-June 1993
One of Bob Stevens' favourite bottles was of aquamarine glass, carved from a solid block and decorated with five sages looking at a scroll bearing a yin-yang symbol (Stevens 1976, no. 1002). It can only have been from the hand of the same lapidary as this one, which is of the same sort of glass, carved from a solid block, obviously intended to imitate aquamarine in both colour and weight. There are a few genuine examples (although they have inspired several recent fakes), and they seem to have shared the creative impulse that resulted in a range of green and blue glass bottles imitating semi-precious stones and usually bearing chi-dragon decoration. We have resisted an attribution but, as so often with fine quality, early glass carvings, the imperial glassworks remains a likely source for the group.
The bottles of this group are extremely rare and, since they have fostered forgeries, it is sometimes impossible to assess the authenticity of published examples. We know of one exact copy of this bottle, where the design and carving are reproduced almost stroke for stroke, but its colour is unnaturally good, being darker and thus more akin to a modern jeweller's ideal of the perfect colour for the stone rather than what would have been seen in mid-Qing China (Christie's, Hong Kong, 1 May 1994, lot 1020). The aquamarine available at that time, mostly from Xinjiang, was mainly of a rather pale colour, and that is what glassmakers would have sought to reproduce.