A yellow nephrite snuff bottle, dish, thumb ring, finger ring and belt hook
Probably Imperial, attributable to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1700-1800 5.09cm high.
Treasury 1, no. 80
黃玉獸耳銜環鼻煙壺、煙碟、扳指、戒指及帶鉤 擬御製品，傳宮廷作坊，北京， 1700～1800
A yellow nephrite snuff bottle, dish, thumb ring, finger ring, and belt hook
Nephrite; very well hollowed, with a recessed foot; carved with mask-and-ring handles Probably imperial; attributable to the palace workshops, Beijing, 17001800 Height: 5.09 cm Mouth/lip: 0.95/1.43 cm Stopper: pearl; turquoise matrix collar
Condition: Bottle: tiny chip on foot, but otherwise excellent workshop condition. Dish and archer's ring: some natural flaws, and the carving well worn in places on the ring. Plain ring and belt hook: workshop condition
Provenance: Arthur Gadsby Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 2 May 1991, lot 220
Exhibited: Hong Kong Museum of Art, MarchJune 1994 National Museum, Singapore, November 1994February 1995 Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1997
This bottle fits comfortably into the style of wares attributable to the palace workshops. It is of the yellow jade beloved of the Qing court and particularly of the Qianlong emperor. It has been very well hollowed through an unusually wide mouth, but it also has a distinctly heavy foot area (0.06 cm). It has a crisp, flared foot that is deeper than usual, and the mask-and-ring handles are individualistic, very carefully carved, with circular rings, perhaps reflecting familiarity with the many styles of ancient bronzes in the imperial collection.
This bottle comes from the collection of Arthur Gadsby, a pioneer in matching up snuff bottles with snuff dishes in Hong Kong in the 1960s and 1970s (see Arts of Asia, JanuaryFebruary 1971, pp. 3335). He even went a stage further, trying to match up bottles and dishes with a wider range of personal accessories. This bottle comes with as wide a range as is known, which includes a snuff dish, a thumb ring, a small finger ring and a belt hook. The only common factor is the colour of the material. The dish matches the bottle reasonably well (although it fails to match its quality and elegance). The small patch of brown on one side of the bottle allows the belt hook to be a reasonable match as well, although the latter has far more brown colouring. The two rings then match to some extent the belt-hook, but no longer the bottle. The period range is also far too wide to allow them to be viewed as other than a very personal 'set', since the thumb ring is probably Ming or earlier, and the belt hook is also probably pre-Qing. The main problem, however, with such companions is that they tend to diminish the bottle. The bottle itself is as beautifully made and as elegant as any attributable to the palace, and it is perhaps a disservice to match it to works of art that are not in the same class. As a rule, great works of art should be dealt with individually unless originally conceived in partnership, and here we are dealing with individual works of art. Gadsby's efforts should not be dismissed as meaningless, however, because the assembling of these sets was a creative act in itself.