Snuff bottles formerly in the Mary and George Bloch collection (lots 100-146)
An ivory snuff bottle
Qing dynasty, 17251850 The well hollowed body carved with a concave lip, wide mouth, and recessed, flat, circular foot surrounded by a protruding, flat, circular footrim, engraved with a continuous design of various flowering plants. 2.3cm high.
Provenance 來源: Robert Hall (1991)
Illustrated 出版: Hugh Moss, Victor Graham and Ka Bo Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles. The Mary and George Bloch Collection, Volume 7, Hong Kong, 2009, no. 1548.
There is evidence that screw-threaded ivory bottles were made in the Yongzheng period, the vase shape is typical of the court, and this shape of stopper was a standard at the palace workshops throughout the first half of the Qing dynasty and into the nineteenth century. There is nothing about the size, form, hollowing, stopper, or surface patination of this bottle that would preclude such an attribution. The problem, of course, is that there are two others recorded in this auction. The chances of three early-eighteenth-century snuff bottles of this group surviving from the Yongzheng period, all with their original stoppers intact and all ending up in the same collection, are significantly slim. The patination argues against an early-eighteenth-century attribution, as well. If the bottles were so early, we might expect at least one of them to be more discoloured than the others, for three bottles over so long a period would have surely experienced very different patterns of use. All, however, have a similar degree of natural patination that suggests considerable age but seems insufficient for three centuries of handling.
The type of stopper suggests a northern product, and the similar vase shapes of all three may indicate courtly production. We have left a fairly wide dating range, given these questions. Such matters aside, perhaps the most important observation to make is that these masterpieces of the miniature snuff-bottle arts are faultlessly fashioned and of lovely form.
Of the three, only this snuff bottle was originally decorated. The engraving is worn away completely in parts, but the original design is still obvious. This style of engraving ivory was a standard of the late Ming and early Qing for a wide range of wares for the scholar's studio, including brush pots, brushes, paper-weights, and so on. It continued throughout the Qing dynasty, culminating in the micro-incised wares of such artists as Yu Shuo), so this feature provides no particular clues for dating, but there is no reason why such a design should not have appeared in the early eighteenth century.
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