An agate 'monkeys, deer, butterfly, and bird' snuff bottle Official School, 1770–1880
Lot 36
An agate 'monkeys, deer, butterfly, and bird' snuff bottle Official School, 1770–1880
Sold for HK$ 300,000 (US$ 38,687) inc. premium
Lot Details
An agate 'monkeys, deer, butterfly, and bird' snuff bottle
Official School, 1770–1880
7.92cm high.


  • Treasury 1, no. 282


    An agate 'monkeys, deer, butterfly, and bird' snuff bottle

    Dendritic agate; irregularly hollowed, with a concave lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding, irregularly carved flat footrim; the natural markings in the stone edited to create a scene of two monkeys with sticks chasing butterflies and with a bird, a stag, and a tree
    Official School, 1770–1880
    Height: 7.92 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.82/2.51 and 2.44 cm (oval)
    Stopper: tourmaline; silver collar

    Condition: Slightly irregular outer footrim suggests the possibility, in one case, the certainty, of some chips having been polished out; small piece missing from the tree branch near to the trunk; natural flaw line on the back. General relative condition: good

    Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (1994)

    Kleiner 1995, no. 269
    JICSBS, Autumn 1997, p. 8
    Treasury 1, no. 282

    British Museum, London, June–October 1995
    Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

    This unusually large silhouette agate bottle is one of the more complex designs in the entire field and certainly one of the most charming. The markings are unusually dark, almost black, and the design, although appearing to be largely natural, is in fact considerably edited, leaving a distinctly undulating surface. Planes of paler colour in the stone create a ground for the main subject, providing a rock on which the monkeys climb and a receding plane for the deer, adding depth to the otherwise flat, silhouette scene, and this is continued on the reverse with a natural cliff overhang, complete with foliage in dendritic markings defining one side of a gorge.

    An agate snuff bottle with the same auspicious combination of motifs is in the National Palace Museum. The insects are identified by the museum as butterflies, and indeed they no more resemble bees or wasps than the insects on this bottle, but we should note that bees and monkeys are a common rebus for 'enfeoffment as a marquis', a standard wish for career advancement. The bird is properly understood as a magpie (que), which with a deer (lu) is a common rebus for juelu, 'noble rank and the salary pertaining thereto'.


    頒賜品, 1770–1880
    高﹕ 7.92 厘米
    口徑/唇徑: 0.82/2.51 及 2.44 厘米 (橢圓形)
    蓋﹕ 碧璽;銀座


    Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (1994)

    Kleiner 1995, 編號 269
    《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》, 1997年秋期,頁8
    Treasury 1, 編號 282

    大英博物館, 1995年6月~10月
    Israel Museum, 耶路撒冷,1997年7月~月11月


    臺灣國立故宮博物院 藏有同裝飾圖案的瑪瑙鼻煙壺 。博物院長的說明確定那件壺上的飛蟲是蝴蝶 ,而它們的確不像蜂,但我們要提醒一下,蜂跟猴常常寓意"封侯";同樣,喜鵲和鹿寓意喜和祿或"爵祿"。