Turquoise matrix; reasonably well hollowed and carved in the form of two pea- or bean-pods growing from a severed branch with leaves and tendrils Imperial, 17401810 Height: 6.2 cm Mouth: 0.61 cm Stopper: coral, carved as a twig
Condition: Some recutting around the lip, perhaps to deal with a chip out of the end of the severed branch. General relative condition: good
Provenance: F. W. A. Knight Sotheby's, London, 9 June 1981, lot 80 Paula J. Hallett Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (1986)
Published: Kleiner 1987, no. 178 Arts of Asia, SeptemberOctober 1990, p. 90 Kleiner 1994a, p. 48 Treasury 3, no. 425
Exhibited: Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987 Creditanstalt, Vienna, MayJune 1993
Commentary The subject of this bottle has been previously given as a melon, but the author who wrote that lives in town. The shape is that of a pair of bean pods. A bamboo bean-pod snuff bottle in the National Palace Museum is dated by the museum to the 1780 1911 range. A white nephrite paperweight carved as a pair of bean pods in the same museum exhibits the serration along the lip between the two halves of the pods that we see on this snuff bottle. The leaves are also of the same type.
There is a group of turquoise fruit- or vegetable-form snuff bottles in this distinctive type of turquoise that is relatively free of matrix veining and is distinctively pale and half-way between the green and blue materials in colour; the group must all be from the same workshop. The lack of prominent veining is one possible indication that they are an early group, probably from the Qianlong period at the latest; the lack of wear and patination on many of them may indicates that most may have remained unused in the imperial collection until the latter part of the nineteenth century. Given the well-established court taste for these naturalistic snuff-bottle shapes, it is likely that these represent a particular imperial group, perhaps from the mid-Qing period. Another, which is of a group of melons complete with their typical leaves, is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (White 1990, Pl. 51, no. 1). There are at least three in the imperial collection, Chang Lin-sheng 1991, where no. 403 is a pomegranate, no. 404 a bunch of grapes, and no. 402 a related pebble-shaped bottle with Buddhist lions in relief. There is a related lapis lazuli snuff bottle, also in the imperial collection (Gugong bowuyuan 1995, no. 149) that is also of fruit-form (described as a musk-melon). All of these have original stoppers in the same material which, where appropriate, are incorporated in the design of the bottle, suggesting both a workshop style and the possibility that this example is missing its original stopper. It also strengthens the imperial link, since when one finds a variety of different materials carved into similar objects, or in the same style, it is a clue that we are dealing with imperial workshops rather than a small, private concern. The lapis and turquoise examples are linked to the wide group of jade fruit-form bottles (Treasury 1, nos. 6272) by one from the Count Blucher Collection (Moss 1971a, no. 39). Of white nephrite, it is of melon- or gourd-shape and stylistically similar to this, with leaves growing from a severed branch wrapped around the fruit. It also has an original stopper, in matching material, carved as the branch from which the fruit grows.