Showcasing the celebrated Mary and George Bloch Collection of Chinese Snuff Bottles: Part V

Snuff Bottles from the Mary and George Bloch Collection
Part V
27 May 2012
Hong Kong, Admiralty

Bonhams Hong Kong 2012 spring auctions

Auction Date
27 May at 10am

Public Viewing
23 May from 3pm - 9pm
24, 25 and 26 May from 10am - 9pm

Island Ballroom, Island Shangri-La Hotel, Admiralty, Hong Kong

Bonhams, the leading international auction house for Chinese snuff bottles, announces its much anticipated auction of Snuff Bottles from the Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part V, to be held in Hong Kong on 27 May 2012 at the Island Shangri-La Hotel.

Following extraordinary results achieved by Bonhams in Parts I, II, III and IV of the collection, in which every snuff bottle from the collection was sold, with world records broken in 11 different categories, Part V is eagerly awaited by collectors. A total of 168 snuff bottles will go to block, carrying an overall estimate of HK$24,000,000 - 40,000,000.

Historically, the habit of using ground tobacco (snuff) was introduced to Asia by 17th Century Western travellers from Europe, where it was an exotic import from the Americas. Chinese snuff takers found that traditional Western snuffboxes did not work well in the humid climates of Asia, and from the later 17th Century Chinese craftsmen created small airtight bottles to keep the ground tobacco in perfectly dry condition. Snuff bottles were manufactured on a grand scale throughout the Qing dynasty, but the majority consisted of low quality examples used by those outside of elite circles. However, a highly select group of masterpieces were commissioned for the Imperial Court.

Several great collections of snuff bottles were formed in the early 20th Century in Asia, Europe and the USA. However, no collection formed in the modern era can rival that formed by the late George Bloch (1920-2009). It consists of 1,720 bottles, purchased at auction and from leading international snuff bottle dealers from 1983 onwards. Extensively published and exhibited at the Hong Kong Museum of Art and British Museum, it is widely regarded as the highest quality collection of snuff bottles in private hands. The contents of this world famous collection span three centuries of top-level Chinese craftsmanship.

Significantly, the most expensive snuff bottle from the Bloch Collection sold to date was a "famille-rose" enamelled glass "European-subject" snuff bottle made in the Imperial Palace workshops in Beijing during the Emperor Qianlong period (1736-1795) which measures only 8.07cm high. It carried a pre-sale estimate of HK$4,900,000 - 9,000,000 but was sold for a world record price of HK$25.3 million on 28 November 2011.

Highlights of the auction include:

1. Lot 38
A "famille-rose" enamelled-copper "European ladies with children" snuff bottle

Famille rose enamels on copper, with gold; painted on each main side with a circular panel of European subjects. One main side depicts a woman carrying a basket of flowers over her right shoulder, with a young boy offering her red flowers matching those in the garland in her hair; while the other side shows a similar scene, also of a woman with a basket of flowers hanging over her right shoulder and a young boy. The foot of the bottle is inscribed in blue regular script, Qianlong nian zhi ("Made during the Qianlong era").
Imperial, palace workshops, Beijing, 1736–1760
Height: 5 cm
Estimate: HK$4,000,000 - 8,000,000

2. Lot 148
A "famille-rose" enamelled-copper "European ladies with children" snuff bottle

Famille rose enamels on copper, with gold; painted on each main side with an irregular oval panel of European subjects. One side depicts a seated woman with a young boy, an elaborate, castellated building and trees in the hilly background; the other a standing woman holding a flower in her left hand, also with a young boy, buildings, trees and shrubbery beyond. The foot of the bottle is inscribed in blue regular script, Qianlong nian zhi ('Made during the Qianlong era')
Imperial, palace workshops, Beijing, 1736–1775
Height: 5.02 cm
Estimate: HK$ 2,200,000-4,000,000

3. Lot 167
A "famille-rose" enamelled copper "figures in mansion" snuff bottle

Famille rose enamels on copper, with gold; painted on each main side with a foliate panel, one with two women and two young boys in the garden of a waterside pavilion, the other with a young woman standing pensively, her right hand resting on the back of a bench seat placed in front of a marble-topped painting table. The foot of the bottle is inscribed in variegated blue, green, black, and reddish-brown regular script, Kangxi yuzhi ('Made by imperial command of the Kangxi emperor').
Imperial, palace workshops, Beijing, 1705–1718
Height: 4.9 cm
Estimate: HK$2,500,000-4,500,000

Julian King, Head of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art at Bonhams Hong Kong, commented on the collection, and Bonhams' place at the forefront of collectables in China and Hong Kong, "Bonhams has been setting world record prices with the sale of the Mary and George Bloch Collection, since the first sale took place in May 2010, in Hong Kong. As the leading auction house in the world for Chinese snuff bottles, we are very proud to be able to offer collectors the chance to own part of the Part V collection. As a growing number of collectors vie for the best snuff bottles, their value has increased rapidly. Over the last decade prices have increased over fourfold making this collectable a highly portable alternative investment."

Representatives of the media are invited to come to the public preview and the auction on 27 May.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

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