Ivory; very well hollowed, with a flat lip, wide mouth, and flat foot 17251850 Height: 3.16 cm Mouth/lip: 0.58/1.12 cm Stopper: ivory; with integral screw-threaded 'cork'; original
Condition: 1-cm long age crack across mouth and down the body of one side; otherwise, excellent condition
Provenance: Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd (1992)
Published: Treasury 7, no. 1547
There is evidence that screw-threaded ivory bottles were made in the Yongzheng period (as mentioned under Sale 2, lot 120), the vase shape is typical of the court, and this shape of stopper was a standard at the palace workshops throughout the first half of the Qing dynasty and into the nineteenth century. There is nothing about the size, form, hollowing, stopper, or surface patination of this bottle that would preclude such an attribution. The problem, of course, is that there are three of these bottles: see lots 84 and 156 in this Sale. The chances of three early-eighteenth-century snuff bottles of this group surviving from the Yongzheng period, all with their original stoppers intact and all ending up in the same collection, are significantly slim. The patination argues against an early-eighteenth-century attribution, as well. If the bottles were so early, we might expect at least one of them to be more discoloured than the others, for three bottles over so long a period would have surely experienced very different patterns of use. All, however, have a similar degree of natural patination; this patination, moreover, while suggesting considerable age, seems insufficient for three centuries of handling.
The type of stopper, nevertheless, does suggest a northern product, and the similar vase shapes of all three may indicate courtly production. We have left a fairly wide dating range, given these questions. Such matters aside, perhaps the most important observation to make is that these masterpieces of the miniature snuff-bottle arts are faultlessly fashioned and of lovely form.