Bronze and gold; with a flat lip and protruding, flared flat foot; cast on each side with a design enclosed in a foliate panel with various auspicious objects, including the emblems of the Eight Immortals, all beribboned, one side with castanets, a double gourd, a yugu (bamboo musical instrument), a chime, a ladle, a leaf-shaped fan, and a pair of crossed swords, the other with another chime, yugu, a double gourd, a ladle, a leaf-shaped fan, a flute, a basket containing a peach growing on a branch, and a crutch, the ground on both sides stamped with tiny rings, the outer surfaces all gilded Probably imperial, 17501800 Height: 7.46 cm Mouth/lip: 0.72/1.77 cm Stopper: bronze and gold, the flat collar with a finial in the form of a formalized flame, the edge of the collar milled, covered overall in gold; possibly original
Condition: surface wear that has removed much of the gilding from relief areas. General relative condition: good
Provenance: Hugh M. Moss Ltd (1978) Belfort Collection (1986)
Published: Jutheau 1980, p. 51, fig 2, left Kleiner 1987, no. 245 Galeries Lafayette 1990, p. 4 Treasury 7, 1610
Exhibited: L'Arcade Chaumet, Paris, June 1982 Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987 Galeries Lafayette, Paris, April 1990 Creditanstalt, Vienna, MayJune 1993
Commentary: Th main design of this bottle was evidently cast from a mould and finished by hand detailing. The overall appearance reminds one of moulded porcelain bottles of the mid-Qing period. Another courtly feature is the design framed in a recessed panel. It might have been done by bronze makers at the palace workshops, but this sort of work was also done at Guangzhou, and it is perhaps significant that this compressed, elongated ovoid form is a standard of painted enamelled snuff bottles from Guangzhou. Beijing products are rarely of such an elongated form; any elongated form in the medium is either from Guangzhou or, if from Beijing, very late in the Qianlong reign. (For one rare Beijing example, notably of a slightly different shape from the standard Guangzhou elongated ovoid form, see Christie's, Paris, 21 November 2008, lot 56.)
The chime (qing) and the ribbons (shoudai) constitute a visual pun for the idea of celebration (qing) of longevity (shou), a theme that frequently underlies depictions of the Eight Immortals or sometimes, as is the case here, their emblems. We find the double gourd of Li Tieguai, twice, together with his crutch; the fan of Zhongli Quan, also twice; the yugu of Zhang Guolao, twice again; the castanets of Cao Guojiu; the basket of Lan Caihe, containing a peach of immortality; the flute of Han Xiangzi,; the sword of Lü Dongbin, again doubled; and the ladle of He Xianggu, also depicted twice. As a rule, the composite motif of the Eight Immortals signifies a hope for longevity.
For a bronze bottle of the same subject, but of a different shape and with very convincing wear, see Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 28 October 1993, lot 1167; another similar bottle, of only slightly different shape, was in the Ko Collection, Christie's, London, 10 June 1974, lot 178. For other related bottles of different design and shape but obviously of the same type and style, see Sotheby's, London, 3 March 1987, lot 814, and China Guardian, Beijing, 21 October 1996, lot 1880; this one retains its original stopper with a sapphire finial.