A moulded brown porcelain 'woven basket' snuff bottle
Celadon-green and brown glazes on beige porcelain; with a slightly convex lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding convex footrim; moulded in the form of a hu-shaped vase wrapped in a protective basketweave container with two mask-and-ring handles on the basket, which is all glazed brown; the shoulders, neck, lip, inside of the neck, foot, and footrim all covered in celadon green glaze that extends into the inner neck; the interior unglazed Probably imperial, Jingdezhen, 17601799 Height: 4.39 cm Mouth/lip: 0.74/1.18 cm Stopper: stained bone; coral finial
Condition: small bruise and relevant crack on footrim with crack running from just above it on the body to the lip; tiny chips in the mouth and nostril on one lion mask; glaze has worn from the raised relief
Provenance: Doyle, New York (1981) Gerd Lester (1986)
Published: Treasury 6, no. 1170
The basketweave design is one clue that this particular bottle may be imperial, for this was a popular motif at the court in the mid-Qing on a number of bottles made of various materials. (See Treasury 1, nos. 97 and 98.) An even more persuasive reason for believing that this bottle is imperial is the existence of another bottle that is apparently from the same mould, but with the addition of famille-rose enamelled details, bearing a Qianlong reign mark in gold enamel (Kleiner 1999, no. 138, also in Chinese Snuff Bottles, no. 5, p. 74, fig 88). If the present bottle was made from that same imperial mould, we are justified in classifying it as imperial, mark or no mark.
The basketweave design may have become popular at court as early as the beginning of the Yongzheng period: an entry in the imperial Archives for 1723 (first month, ninth day) records the emperor receiving from Prince Yi an 'enamelled red glass oil-basket style snuff bottle'. (The purpose of the basketweave or wickerwork casing is to protect a vessel containing liquids.) This description may very well refer to a basketweave design; however, it must be kept in mind that it may also characterize a particular shape of bottle rather than its decoration.
While the spectacular famille-rose version of the bottle is extremely handy in identifying and dating this one, there is a special appeal to this plainer version, as Kleiner points out, particularly in the use of the brown glaze for the basket, which resembles woven straw and adds a touch of verisimilitude. It is possible that the potters at Jingdezhen were instructed in this case, as happened so often in other cases, to make variations with different styles of decoration and included one that is realistic.