Nephrite; carved in the form of a pomegranate growing from a severed branch with two blossoms and leaves Possibly Imperial, 17501830 Height: 7.75 cm Mouth: 0.55 cm Stopper: jadeite, carved as a leafy stem
Condition: Small chip to underside of leaf on narrow side touching severed branch; otherwise, workshop condition
Published: Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty 1978, no. 163 Kleiner 1987, no. 35 Treasury 1, no. 64
Exhibited: Hugh M. Moss Ltd., London, September 1974 Hong Kong Museum of Art, OctoberDecember 1978 Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987 Creditanstalt, Vienna, MayJune 1993
A carving such as this, if it was not originally a snuff bottle, could have served as a paper-weight, a small sculpture, an auspicious gift, or even a space-filler in a curio box for the emperor, or, of course, it could have been all of these things at once. The calyx of the fruit certainly accommodates the mouth of the snuff bottle quite comfortably, making it impossible to be certain of the original carver's intentions.
As a jade carving it is outstanding, with masterly artistic conception. The fruit has been left entirely plain and finished to perfection, with a lovely, even polish. This polish may offer a hint as to its date of production, since it may reflect an Imperial taste for more highly polished jade carvings subsequent to the importing of large numbers of Hindustan jade carvings after 1760.
As a rule, the pomegranate is depicted with part of the skin peeled away to reveal the many seeds inside which were, after all, the source of the symbolism. Here, however, artistic conception appears to have governed the more obvious levels of symbolism.