Opaque turquoise-green glass; with a narrow rounded lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding rounded footrim; carved with a framed, slightly concave panel on each main side and a raised flat band across the shoulders and down each narrow side 1710-1760 Height: 4.5 cm Mouth/lip: 0.75/1.04 cm Stopper: carnelian; vinyl collar
Condition: tiny, insignificant chip on the frame of the circular recess; otherwise, workshop condition
Exhibited: British Museum, London, June-October 1995 Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July-November 1997
Circular panels framed by a raised frame were a feature of early snuff-bottle production, as we know from a Yongzheng-marked turquoise bottle in the Susan Ault Collection (Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, p. 59, no. 38). That one can be ascribed to the court, which is also by far the most likely source of this one. We think it most likely to date from the Yongzheng reign or very early Qianlong reign, although we have left a little leeway, for the usual reasons.
The colour of this glass resembles the pale green of mineral turquoise. It would have been blown, probably into a mould, before being detailed by the lapidary. The light weight, an indication it was blown, is in this case also due to its very thin walls and unusually wide mouth, the walls of the neck being as thin as any known on a glass bottle.
The form is intriguing, particularly in the light of the controversy over the evolution of the snuff dish. Both sides are distinctly concave and deliberately dished, and there seems no decorative reason for such a feature. Their creation would have required additional manipulation by the glassblower or lapidary, with no discernible aesthetic advantage. In this case, at least, we may safely assume the intention of the maker to have been the provision of a bottle with integral, functional snuff dishes.
The shape is eccentric, for it leans mildly to one side, and the neck is slightly off centre. In contrast, we see confidence and skill exhibited in carving the various details, including mouth and foot. It seems that because the original blown form lacked perfect formal integrity, the carver was obliged to adjust the rather formal, abstract shapes of the surface to the asymmetry of the bottle. He has risen to the task with artistic aplomb, transforming it into a veritable gem, albeit one of endearing eccentricity. The colour is lovely, the minimal weight delightful in the hand, the wide mouth and clever series of abstract shapes well conceived, and, adding yet further to the heady aesthetic equation, the fact it originated in the early period of glassmaking provides psychologically stimulation.