Attributable to the Imperial glassworks, Beijing 1740-1790 5.6cm high.
Treasury 5, no. 841
A brown glass 'Indian lotus' snuff bottle
Transparent, reddish-brown glass sparsely suffused with air bubbles of various sizes, some elongated; with a flat lip and slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding flattened footrim; carved on each main side with an identical design of a formalized Indian lotus, each narrow side with an identical design of a formalized begonia Attributable to the Imperial glassworks, Beijing 1740-1790 Height: 5.6 cm Mouth/lip: 0.7/1.1 cm Stopper: chalcedony; gilt-silver collar
Condition: Natural discolouration in the glass at the neck, definitely part of the original process; workshop condition
Exhibited: British Museum, London, June-October 1995 Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July-November 1997
The main motif here is typical of the design known as 'Indian lotus,' which appears occasionally on Mughal-style jades, including one or two from the Imperial collection (which could have influenced late Qianlong palace style), but it also appears well before that in Chinese porcelain decoration. In the Imperial collection, it appears far more rarely on Mughal or Turkish imports than on Chinese versions carved at the court after 1760, suggesting the design was a Chinese preference rather than an imported one.
The most likely place of manufacture for this bottle is the Imperial glassworks, with carving carried out in the palace jade workshops. The most likely period is the Qianlong reign, but highly skilled Imperial lapidaries carried late eighteenth-century style into the early nineteenth century, and it is difficult to distinguish between the two.
The distinctive colour is a brownish ruby-red (as opposed to the reddish-brown of Sale 3, lot 129), unusual in that the glass has a smoky quality, slightly dulling the colour. Technically it combines exquisite carving of detail, including extraordinary integrity of the ground plane, with a very even, satiny, and distinctive polish, and it may represent another style originating from a particular design/carving team during the eighteenth century. During the sixty-year reign of the Qianlong emperor alone, dozens of skilled carvers must have laboured in the lapidary workshops, and as yet we are able to identify very few pieces as definitively emanating from the Qianlong palace workshops, let alone being able to identify the work of individual carvers.
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