A fine et very rare famille rose enameled double-gourd-shaped glass snuff bottle. Imperial, Palace workshops, Beijing, Qianlong four-character mark in blue enamel and of the period, 1736-1780

The translucent white glass bottle shaped as a double-gourd, with flat lip and slightly recessed, concave circular foot surrounded by a footrim, finely enameled with an overall design of blossoming lilies and roses, all against a yellow ground between a simple border of blue dots encircling the footrim, and a formalized floral border around the neck, the foot inscribed Qianlong nian zhi ('Made in the Qianlong period') in blue enamel regular script, gilt porcelain stopper with integral finial and collar, molded with a formalized floral design
1 in. (4.68 cm.) high  - Estimate: $350,000 - $400,000

Provenance : Private American collection
Christie's, New York, 27 November 1991, lot 110
Hugh M. Moss Ltd.

Literature : Arts of Asia, November-December 1991, p. 29
Arts of Asia, March-April 1992, p. 138
Moss, Graham, Tsang, The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle. The J & J Collection, Vol. 1, no. 191

Exhibited : Christie's, New York, 1993
Empress Place Museum, Singapore, 1994
Museum für Kunsthandwerk, Frankfurt, 1996-1997
Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London, 1997
Naples Museum of Art, Florida, 2002
Portland Museum of Art, Oregon, 2002
National Museum of History, Taipei, 2002
International Asian Art Fair, Seventh Regiment Armory, New York, 2003
Poly Art Museum, Beijing, 2003

Notes : This bottle is one of several known examples of white glass double-gourd-shape decorated with famille rose enamels on an enameled yellow ground. All of these examples were made in the Beijing Palace workshops during the Qianlong period, and all display different combinations of flowers. There were two other such snuff bottles from the J & J Collection, one illustrated by Moss, Graham, Tsang, The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle, pl. 190 (sold in these rooms, 30 March 2005, lot 22, and decorated with crab apple and prunus), and the other, pl. 191 (sold in these rooms, 29 March 2006, lot 61, decorated with lilies and roses). See several other examples, one illustrated by B. Stevens, The Collector's Book of Snuff Bottles, no. 968; one illustrated by R. Kleiner, Chinese Snuff Bottles from the Collection of Mary and George Bloch, no. 14; one of a pair illustrated in The Barbara Hutton Collection of Chinese Porcelain, p. 9; and two in the Beijing Palace Museum, one with peonies and the other with chrysanthemums, both illustrated in Snuff Bottles, The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, pl. 13. However, of this group, the J & J bottle is the smallest known example.

From the Palace workshops, enameled glass snuff bottles are very rare when compared to the number of enameled metal bottles, most probably because of the difficulty in controlling and firing the enamels perfectly on glass. The different colors of enamel would not all have reached maturity at the same temperature, which prompted Ye Bengqi to fire different colors in separate operations (see Hugh Moss, "The Apricot Grove Studio. The Ye Family of Snuff Bottle Artists", part 3, JICSBS, Autumn 1985, pp. 116-130). Although it is not certain that the Beijing Palace workshops arrived at the same solutions as the Ye family, they would inevitably have encountered most of the same problems. One problem they might have faced would be over-fired enamels on one part of the vessel, while the other enamels were only just reaching maturity. If the temperature became too high, the glass body would soften and collapse, and this is evident in the number of enameled bottles which have clearly slumped in the firing. This bottle, however, is a superbly fired example with little of the standard pitting problems of enamels on glass, and demonstrates the exquisite and subtle painting typical of the Palace workshops.

The double-gourd was a popular form for snuff bottles, appreciated not only for its tactile qualities when held in the hand, but for its auspicious symbolism, representing abundance and its association with Daoism. The gourd growing on a vine formed the rebus guadie mianmian ('May you have numerous descendants'). The roses symbolize wealth, glory and longevity, while the Chinese name for lily (baihe) is an acronym for 'hundred together', a symbol for harmony and unity.

Christie's New York. Important chinese snuff bottles from the j&j collection,part v. 17 September 2008. New York, Rockefeller Plaza. www.christies.com