Jasper; very well hollowed, with a concave lip and recessed, slightly convex foot Possibly Imperial, possibly palace workshops, 17601840 Height: 6.52 cm Mouth/lip: 0.67/1.98 cm Stopper: tourmaline; silver collar
Condition: Miniscule nibble to outer lip; otherwise, workshop condition
Provenance: Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (1994)
Published: Treasury 2, no. 224
What characterizes this particular pear-shaped form is the extreme compression and the sharpness of the curve where the base runs into the foot. Another feature of this particular form, is the recessed foot that often accompanies it, cut directly into the base of the form without a specific footrim other than the natural area where the curve of the base meets the recession of the foot.
The form exists in a variety of materials, including nephrite, other types of quartz, and glass that can be attributable with some confidence to the Qianlong era and the palace workshops, allowing us the luxury of being able to date with some confidence a group of plain stone bottles. A dark sapphire-blue glass example with an entirely credible Qianlong mark is illustrated in Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, no. 61. Another is known in black glass (Friedman 1990, no. 2), and a transparent amber-yellow glass with a wide mouth and credible Qianlong mark is also recorded (Hugh Moss records). There is also a superb crystal bottle of this form bearing the Yi Jin zhai mark of Yongxing, the first Prince Cheng (see this saile, lot 77) in the Rietberg Museum (Hall 1993, no. 28). It is likely to have been made in the mid-Qing period, between about 1770 and 1823, when the Prince died. Some of the glass and stone examples have unusually wide mouths, which we have suggested is probably a feature on hardstone bottles of the mid-Qing period, from the latter part of the Qianlong reign into the Daoguang period, since it is often found with the virtuoso hollowing associated with the same sort of period. Another of the form which strengthens the Imperial connection is a magnificent ink-play agate from the Monimar Collection (Lawrence 1996, no. 59) depicting the subject of a galloping Manchu bannerman.
As a rule, where a distinctive form or style of carving is carried across a variety of different materials, it is a clue that we are dealing with a courtly group. The court maintained artists to design a wide range of wares that might then be sent to any of the palace workshops or to more distant facilities for production, resulting in certain popular forms or designs being produced across a wide range of arts. Reading these clues suggests that this is an Imperial work, probably from the latter part of the Qianlong era or the early nineteenth century. It may have been made at the palace workshops, since we can be sure, with the glass examples, that it was a palace form. An endorsement of this is found in the very next illustration in Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, no. 62, where the same shape occurs in a glass bottle of Imperial yellow colour, carved with the known Imperial subject of a basket of flowers. It has a raised foot, but probably mainly because a recessed foot would be difficult to reconcile with the design, but is otherwise typical of the form.
How the form is arrived at here is exemplary. It is unusually well hollowed for jasper, where the opacity of the material does not reveal painstaking hollowing to the eye and would not have demanded it as standard. It is also of perfect formal integrity, with impeccable detailing and finish, and is made from a material that is as exciting as any known jasper snuff bottle, although one has to say that variegated jasper is, as a rule, spectacular. There is plenty of scope for the game of interpreting the random markings as representational subject matter and, as so often, landscape is an excellent starting point.