Treasury 1, no. 80: A yellow nephrite snuff bottle, dish, thumb ring, finger ring and belt hook, Probably Imperial, attributable to the palace workshops, Beijing, 1700-1800. Photo Bonhams

Nephrite; very well hollowed, with a recessed foot; carved with mask-and-ring handles. Height: 5.09 cm. Mouth/lip: 0.95/1.43 cm. Stopper: pearl; turquoise matrix collar. Sold for HK$237,500

Provenance: Arthur Gadsby
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 2 May 1991, lot 220
The Mary and George Bloch Collection

Published: Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 58
Treasury 1, no. 80

Exhibited: Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum, Singapore, November 1994–February 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1997

This bottle fits comfortably into the style of wares attributable to the palace workshops. It is of the yellow jade beloved of the Qing court and particularly of the Qianlong emperor. It has been very well hollowed through an unusually wide mouth, but it also has a distinctly heavy foot area (0.06 cm). It has a crisp, flared foot that is deeper than usual, and the mask-and-ring handles are individualistic, very carefully carved, with circular rings, perhaps reflecting familiarity with the many styles of ancient bronzes in the imperial collection.


A yellow nephrite snuff dish and  a yellow nephrite thumb ring, probably Ming or earlier. Photo Bonhams


A yellow nephrite small finger ring. Photo Bonhams


A yellow nephrite belt hook, probably pre-Qing dynasty. Photo Bonhams

This bottle comes from the collection of Arthur Gadsby, a pioneer in matching up snuff bottles with snuff dishes in Hong Kong in the 1960s and 1970s (see Arts of Asia, January–February 1971, pp. 33–35). He even went a stage further, trying to match up bottles and dishes with a wider range of personal accessories. This bottle comes with as wide a range as is known, which includes a snuff dish, a thumb ring, a small finger ring and a belt hook. The only common factor is the colour of the material. The dish matches the bottle reasonably well (although it fails to match its quality and elegance). The small patch of brown on one side of the bottle allows the belt hook to be a reasonable match as well, although the latter has far more brown colouring. The two rings then match to some extent the belt-hook, but no longer the bottle. The period range is also far too wide to allow them to be viewed as other than a very personal 'set', since the thumb ring is probably Ming or earlier, and the belt hook is also probably pre-Qing. The main problem, however, with such companions is that they tend to diminish the bottle. The bottle itself is as beautifully made and as elegant as any attributable to the palace, and it is perhaps a disservice to match it to works of art that are not in the same class. As a rule, great works of art should be dealt with individually unless originally conceived in partnership, and here we are dealing with individual works of art. Gadsby's efforts should not be dismissed as meaningless, however, because the assembling of these sets was a creative act in itself.

Bonhams. FINE CHINESE ART, 28 Nov 2011. Hong Kong www.bonhams.com