Mary and George Bloch Collection of Chinese snuff bottles Part IV Auction at Bonhams

Bonhams announces its auction of Snuff Bottles from the Mary and George Bloch Collection Part IV, to be held in Hong Kong on November 28, 2011 at the Island Shangri-la Hotel.

Following extraordinary results achieved by Bonhams for Parts I, II and III of the collection, in which every snuff bottle from the collection was sold, with world records broken in eleven different categories, Part IV is eagerly awaited by collectors. The sale features a total of 170 snuff bottles with an overall estimate of HK$21,000,000 – 38,000,000.

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 1720 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 4.22 cm high and one of the most exquisite bottles in private hands, which was made for the Imperial Court of 18th Century China. Estimated at HK$1,800,000 – HK$3,000,000, it was sold for a world record price of HK$9,280,000 in May 2010.

Highlights from Part IV of the Mary and George Bloch Collection include:

Lot 38
A ‘famille-rose’ enamelled glass ‘European-subject’ snuff bottle Imperial, palace workshops, Beijing, Qianlong blue-enamelled four-character mark and of the period, 1736-1760; 8.07cm high.
Estimate: HK$4,900,000 – 9,000,000
The largest snuff bottle of all recorded palace enamels on glass, this is set apart by the distinctly European, elaborate trompe l’oeil frames around all four panels. The main panels are of European subjects, while the subsidiary ones are Chinese landscapes. This snuff bottle reflects considerable European characteristics; representative of the historical period it was made. The influence of the missionaries in the court arts of glassmaking and enamelling (particularly on metal and glass, which were arts introduced from the West) was significant during the first half of the eighteenth century. When this bottle was made, European and Chinese court artists worked side by side at the palace workshops.

Lot 112
A ‘famille-rose’ enamelled copper and gold ‘millefleurs’ snuff bottle Imperial, palace workshops, Beijing, Qianlong blue-enamelled four-character mark and of the period, 1736-1775; 4.19cm high.
Estimate: HK$2,000,000-4,000,000
This exquisitely unique palace enamel features a highly artistic craftsmanship; evidenced by its distinctively different composition of a commonly popular subject. Although the subject here is part of the popular theme of profusion of flowers, the conception and composition are individual, with one particularly unusual feature being the simple view of each flower, looking straight into the corolla of the bloom. Also unusual are the slight but significant yellow ground upon which they crowd and the intensity of the palette. The surrounding details attest to both Chinese and European influences.

Lot 166
A ‘famille-rose’ enamelled copper and gold ‘blossoming prunus’ snuff bottle Imperial, palace workshops, Beijing, Kangxi blue-enamelled four-character mark and of the period, 1710-1722; 5.13cm high.
Estimate: HK$1,500,000-2,500,000
This is one of the most spectacular and intriguing of all Kangxi palace snuff bottles, and the only surviving enamelled metal snuff bottle with a continuous design (as opposed to panels of decoration surrounded by formalized floral designs). It is also striking because of its ruby-red ground, again the only example known from the period on an enamelled metal snuff bottle.

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 IV 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”.

28 November at 10am

Public Viewing
24 November from 1pm to 9pm
25, 26 and 27 November from 10am to 9pm

Island Ballroom & Taishan Room, Island Shangri-La Hotel
Hong Kong

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