Imperial glassworks, Beijing, Qianlong incised four-character mark and of the period, 1760-1799 5.29cm high.
Treasury 5, no. 866
A yellow glass inscribed snuff bottle
Semi-transparent yellow, over an inner layer of translucent yellow glass, with gold pigment; with a slightly concave inner lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; engraved on both main sides with a poetic inscription in clerical script, the foot inscribed in regular script, Qianlong yuzhi ('Made by Imperial command of the Qianlong emperor'), the inscriptions all filled with gold pigment Imperial glassworks, Beijing, 1760-1799 Height: 5.29 cm Mouth/lip: 0.6/1.4 cm Stopper: glass of 'official's hat' shape with integral finial and collar carved with a band of formalized lotus petals
Condition: Insignificant tiny chip and still smaller nibbles to outer lip; similarly minor nibbles to one area of outer footrim; some usual scratching and wear from use but only visible under magnification. General relative condition: excellent
Provenance: Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 3 November 1994, lot 866
Published: JICSBS, Spring 1995, p. 31 Arts of Asia, March-April 1995, p. 128 Sin, Hui, and Kwong 1996, no. 12 Treasury 5, no. 866
Exhibited: The Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong, October 1996
By virtue of its inscription, this is related to a jade bottle in this collection that was in the same auction in Hong Kong in 1994 and, although it is not so noted in the catalogue, we believe was from the same collection (for the bottle and details of the collector, see Treasury 1, no. 111). Both bear an encomium to a successful military official, presumably composed by the Qianlong emperor, since both also bear reign marks denoting manufacture at his Imperial command. No military official is specified here, as was the case on the jade example, but the references to the tiger outshining all other species is an obvious metaphor for a victorious general.
The Imperial encomium is an eight-line regulated verse, four lines on either main side of the bottle:
I made this ice-like bottle made to store an exceptional scent. Neither pearl nor jade, it is most curious and fine. The Lord of the Mountain symbolizes all the species; The Leader of Beasts has an awesome name that shakes the furthest lands. It gives a few long roars and the wind turns frigid. As soon as its heroic feelings come out, the air is full of energy. This royal court is full of literary talents. I bestow this on your family to keep forever.
The second couplet refers to the tiger, which clearly represents the qualities of the person being favoured by the gift of this snuff bottle.
The colour here is of the paler, lemon-yellow hue which we have suggested was one of the earlier yellows developed at the Imperial glassworks. The glass is distinctly layered, and the lip reveals a concentric ring of a less transparent, lighter colour inside a more transparent, brighter yellow casing; this is the result of the blowing process rather than being a deliberate overlay. The same is true of Sale 4, lot 159 and lot 133 in this sale.
As with the jade example, this is likely to date from the second half of the reign, when the emperor spent more time indulging in the arts and composing specific inscriptions to be written both upon ancient objects in his collection and, occasionally, on newly made pieces. The colour, however, might allow it to be a little earlier. The glass is probably from the Imperial glassworks, since the shape is typical of the Qianlong era, and it would be the most convenient place to have it made. The mark, wheel-cut but very carefully inscribed, is commensurate with Qianlong style and credible.