17201850 3.48cm high (including original stopper).
Treasury 7, no. 1561
Walrus ivory and green stain; well hollowed, with a natural foot; carved in the form of a melon with twelve lobes 17201850 Mouth: 0.49 cm Height: 3.48 cm (including original stopper) Stopper: ivory, carved as a stalk, the end drilled through to a small hole in the top of the stopper for a cord, with integral cork; original
Condition: apparent chip in the inner lip is in fact the point where the screw thread surfaces at the lip; usual wear from use, but otherwise in workshop condition
Provenance: Robert Hall (1995)
Published: Treasury 7, no. 1561
Commentary: The small size, rare form, and lovely, unusually pale staining combine in this example with a well-handled surface patina to create one of the most delightful and rarest of all walrus-ivory snuff bottles. As an additional treat, it has retained its original stopper. The stopper matches the bottle perfectly. The inside of the neck is threaded for a screw; the original, integral ivory 'cork' has lost its threads through wear, however, and a very thin veneer of real cork has been added to compensate and create a secure fit. Another extraordinary departure from the norm is a tiny hole drilled into the first few millimetres of the end of the stopper and emerging through a small hole at the top to allow a cord to pass through. This may have been for no better reason than that it allowed a decorative cord or some other fitting to be added to the stopper.
A tiny, elegant, and delicate bottle of this sort could have been made anywhere and almost at any time during snuff-bottle history, and if we were to find a reference to such a bottle in the Yongzheng records, it would be believable as from so early a period. There is evidence that this stained material was a northern and, therefore, almost certainly a Beijing speciality, and that it was produced at or for the court as early as the eighteenth century, so an imperial origin is not unlikely. Unfortunately, there is no specific connection with the court that would outweigh the chances of production anywhere else. If non-imperial, this bottle might have been made during the middle to the later part of the Qing dynasty. All of which is a long-winded way of saying we are not at all sure where this was made or when, but we are quite certain that it is irresistible.
As with other fruits that grow in abundance from a single vine or contain multiple seeds, the melon is a symbol of fertility.