A white and russet nephrite 'chi dragon' snuff bottle
Nephrite of pebble material; very well hollowed, with a sharply concave lip and shallow, recessed foot; carved with a chi dragon with a lingzhi in its mouth Possibly Imperial, perhaps palace workshops, Beijing, 17501820 Height: 7.05 cm Mouth/lip: 0.58/1.02 cm Stopper: coral (now replaced with a similar stone); vinyl collar
Condition: Tiny chip on back of hind leg near to the joint of the tail; another on the curled formalized flame near to base; otherwise, workshop condition
Exhibited: British Museum, JuneOctober 1995 Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1997
The form, with its elegantly elongated, compressed meiping shape and narrow, widely flared mouth, is both rare and very pleasing, providing a delightful setting for the lively beast that cavorts on its surface. The carving of the dragon is extremely well executed, with excellent separation of the ground and relief planes and clever use of the natural colouring in the stone to integrate it with its surroundings, allowing the impression that it is emerging from clouds. This interpretation is ideally endorsed by the texture of the off-white nephrite, which is speckled with paler flaws in a cloud-like pattern throughout. The use of such flawed material is another possible clue to the Imperial nature of the bottle.