Photo © Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Oded Löbl

“Devil’s Work” ball with fourteen movable balls
19th century, Qing dynasty
Canton, China
Ivory
Diam: 10 cm
Bequest of Walter Herz, London
Accession number: B66.06.0814
 
 
Made for export to Europe, balls such as this demanded exceptional artisanship. Several openings were drilled in a solid ivory ball, reaching almost to the center, and then special tools were used to loosen the innermost ball and carve a design in it. Successive balls were loosened and carved in the same way, each one moving freely inside the other. The outer ball is the most intricately carved, and the long chain is crafted from a single piece of ivory.

Publications:
Bizarre Perfection, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2008

Exhibition:
Bizarre Perfection, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, The Ruth Youth Wing, 19/12/2008 - 13/06/2009, December 2008 - June 2009

Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: The Ridgefield Foundation, New York, in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir