An inscribed amber and coconut-shell 'dragon' snuff bottle
Attributable to Guangdong province, 17701860 4.34cm high.
Treasury 7, no. 1657
An amber and coconut-shell 'dragon' snuff bottle
Translucent orange-brown amber, coconut shell, and ivory; with a flat lip and protruding concave foot; made up of one convex segment of coconut shell glued to another acting as the main frame, with a convex panel of amber on one main side, the neck and foot in ivory; the amber panel carved with a dragon partially obscured by formalized clouds, the other main side inscribed with two characters in regular script, Qian (?) kan (Carved by Qian [?]), within an oval cartouche Attributable to Guangdong province, 17701860 Height: 4.34 cm Mouth/lip: 0.56/1.14 cm Stopper: mother-of-pearl; coral collar
Condition: Three age cracks in ivory lip; some minor chipping to the amber panel (dragon's horns and one whisker, for instance). General relative condition: good
Exhibited: British Museum, London, JuneOctober 1995 Israel Museum, Jerusalem, JulyNovember 1997
Here, we have some convincing evidence that this particular bottle was a southern product. The style of carving of the dragon on the amber panel is typical of Guangdong style as found on a well-known series of inkstones carved in Guangdong province, where the stone itself was found. (They are of Duan stone from Duanzhou; see Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, nos. 84 and 85, for further information, and Treasury 3, nos. 393 and 394, for two examples with related dragons and clouds.) The design here, with the dragon shown partly obscured by formalized clouds and with paw-like feet rather than the eagle-like claws of its typical northern counterpart, is typical of Duan-stone wares carved in the south. We are encouraged in this attribution by lot 160 in this sale, which combines two of the present materials, coconut shell and ivory, with panels of typically Guangzhou-style decoration.
This combination of the three materials is a rare one for snuff bottles, or indeed for any other works of art.