Amber snuff bottles performed extraordinarily well, claiming two spots among the top 10 lots of the sale, including the highest-selling lot. Photo: Bonhams.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Bonhams Fine Chinese Snuff Bottles auction took place this morning, selling 98% by value and realizing a sale total of $1,022,900, more than twice the pre-sale low estimate. The auction was comprised of 170 lots, drawn primarily from three private collections: The Collection of Dr. Martin Roshco, The Collection of Mrs. Fay Plohn and The Collection of Dr. Edward A. Kopinitz. The compelling array of shapes, material, subject matter and fine provenance throughout the sale generated interest among new and seasoned buyers, with more than 90% of the lots finding buyers.

Amber snuff bottles performed extraordinarily well, claiming two spots among the top 10 lots of the sale, including the highest-selling lot. The top lot was a honey-hued amber snuff bottle, carved with an intricate basket weave pattern, selling for $64,900 (pre-sale est. $18,000-$25,000).


An amber snuff bottle with carved basket weave pattern, 1730-1840Photo: Bonhams.

Of compressed globular form, with a flat lip, and a small circular foot rim surrounding a concave foot, the interior very well-hollowed, the exterior with a rounded band at the base of the neck, and an evenly carved basket weave pattern. 2 3/8in (6cm) high. Sold for US$64,900


Property of Dr. Martin Roshco

Note: This bottle is nearly identical to the one illustrated in Robert Kleiner, Chinese Snuff Bottles, the White Wings Collection #154, p. 222.

Also among the top lots was a cabbage- shaped, carved amber snuff bottle which sold for $23,750 - close to 10 times its pre-sale estimate of $2,000-$3,000.


A carved amber snuff bottle in the shape of a cabbage, 1780-1880Photo: Bonhams.

Well-hollowed, the exterior of the bottle carved to imitate a leafy cabbage with an insect, the foot subdivided into three sections, the amber an even honey color. 2 1/2in (6.5cm) high. Sold for US$23,750


Property of Dr. Martin Roshco

Provenance:  Asiantiques, 1996

The second highest-claiming lot was a glass snuff bottle from the Imperial Beijing Palace workshops. Selling for $45,000, this double gourd form bottle was carved with the characters "Da Ji" (Great Auspiciousness) (pre-sale est. $10,000-$15,000) and proved buyers' continued interest in objects produced under the aegis or the Qianlong emperor (reign 1736-1796).


A double gourd form carved rock crystal snuff bottle. Imperial, Beijing Palace workshops, 1720-1800. Photo: Bonhams.

Of compressed double gourd form, with a flat lip and a concave foot, the interior extremely well-hollowed, the exterior sides carved with floral motifs, the front and back both carved with the characters da ji 'Great Auspiciousness.' 2 1/2in (6.6cm) high. Sold for US$45,000 

京派, 御製, 十八世紀

Provenance: Christie's, New York, March 21, 1997 lot 244

Property of Dr. Martin Roshco

A popular decorative motif in Chinese material culture, the double gourd carries allusions to longevity as a hollowed gourd would be worn by a figure carrying the elixir of immortality. Double gourds were also a frequently used form for snuff bottles and the skill of interior hollowing would challenge even the most talented craftsman. This bottle is exceptionally well-hollowed, with the interior matching the exterior form.

Likewise, jade continues to prove popular, with several top selling lots through out the auction. A Qianlong mark bottle, made between 1720-1800, with a "wrapped qin" design, sold for $31,250 (pre-sale est. $10,000-$15,000). An impressive performance also came from a white jade pomegranate-form snuff bottle which greatly outdid its pre-sale estimate of $1,500-$2,500, claiming $31,250. A third jade highlight was a white jade snuff bottle with a four-character inscription along one side, selling for $25,000 (pre-sale est. $2,500-$4,000).




A white jade snuff bottle with 'wrapped qin' design. Qianlong mark, bottle 1720-1800Photo: Bonhams.

Of compressed globular form, flat lip, its rounded oval foot rim surrounding a recessed foot, the interior very well-hollowed, the exterior carved as a brocade wrapped qin, the front of the instrument visible on one side of the bottle and the back of the instrument on the reverse, the wrapping cloth with a repeating petal diaper motif and a leiwen border, a seal script six-character Qianlong mark to the base. 2 1/8in (5.3cm) high - Sold for US$31,250 


ProvenanceSotheby's, London, October 13, 1987 lot 129
Collection of Eric Young

Property of Dr. Martin Roshco

A nearly identically designed white jade snuff bottle in the Bloch collection is illustrated in Moss, Graham and Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, The Mary and George Bloch Collection, vol.1 no 27. A second 'wrapped qin' bottle in white jade, of a different shape, is illustrated in Humphrey Hui The Imperial Connection, no. 62


A white jade pomegranate form snuff bottle, 1730-1840Photo: Bonhams.

The interior well-hollowed, the exterior carved with a bat, a leafy branch, a blossom and the exposed seeds of the fruit, the translucent stone speckled with icy white inclusions. 1 3/4in (4.6cm) high - Sold for US$31,250


ProvenanceJohn Randall, 1988

Property of Dr. Martin Roshco



A white jade snuff bottle with inscription, 1760-1820Photo: Bonhams.

Of natural pebble form with a flat lip, the white jade displaying a light russet skin on three sides, the fourth side carved in relief with four seal-script characters reading xuxin ying wu (a modest image.), 2 3/8in (5.9cm) high. Sold for US$25,000


Property of Dr. Edward A. Kopinitz

The four characters inscribed are 虛心影物.

Other highlights of the sale included an extremely rare slip decorated Yixing snuff bottle with Qianlong mark, selling for $32,500 (pre-sale est. $12,000-$18,000); an incredibly rare Dehua ware figural snuff bottle, selling for $31,250 (pre-sale est. $6,000-$9,000); and a carved cinnabar lacquer snuff bottle, from 1730-1820, selling for $25,000 (pre-sale est. $12,000-$18,000). Buyers were most stimulated by lots bearing excellent provenance and a proven history of sales.




An extremely rare slip decorated Yixing snuff bottle. Qianlong mark, 1770-1795Photo: Bonhams

Of rounded rectangular form, with a cylindrical neck and flat lip, and tapering to a recessed foot surrounded by an oval foot rim, reserved on each side with a recessed panel, finely carved and decorated in white slip, on one side a moonlit landscape with a pavilion, and on the other a bat and blossoming branch, the foot with an incised inscription reading Qianlong in seal script. 2 1/2in (6.5cm) high - Sold for US$32,500 


Property of Dr. Martin Roshco

Provenance: Pierrette Di-Donna, 1986

It is likely that this bottle belongs to those that were produced by "The Slip Master". For more on this artist and his snuff bottles and teapots which corroborate his producing works for the Imperial Court see Moss, Graham and Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, The Mary and George Bloch Collection, vol.6 pp 941-945.


An incredibly rare Dehua ware figural snuff bottle, 1750-1850. Photo: Bonhams

Of figural form, of a young scholar, with an opening at the crown of his head, his arms cradling a tablet reading san yuan(a reference to successfully passing all levels of the imperial examinations) with flowing robes, his feet unglazed. 3in (7.5cm) high. Sold for US$31,250


Provenance: : E & J Frankel, New York, 1986 

Property of Dr. Martin Roshco

See Robert Kleiner, Treasures from the Sanctum of Enlightened Respect, vol 1, for the only other known bottle in Dehua ware.



A carved cinnabar lacquer snuff bottle. Probably Imperial, possibly Palace workshops, 1730-1820Photo: Bonhams

Of flattened baluster form, with a gilt metal lip and flat gilt metal foot, with an everted mouth rim and leiwenband around the neck, the body carved with a continuous landscape with a figure holding a lingzhi on one side reversed by two seated figures. 2 1/8in (5.7cm) high - Sold for US$25,000


ProvenanceRobert Kleiner

Colonel Kedzior

Property of Dr. Martin Roshco

PublishedRobert Kleiner Chinese Snuff Bottles The White Wings Collectionp. 212
Journal ICSBS, June 1977, p. 17, no . 38

This auction followed acclaimed sales of the Linda Riddell Hoffman and Margaret Polak collections of Chinese snuff bottles offered by Bonhams in New York in March of 2010 and March of 2011. These sales, combined with today's results and the sales of the Mary & George Bloch Collection in the Bonhams Hong Kong galleries, have firmly established Bonhams as the premier auction house for Chinese snuff bottles among connoisseurs and collectors worldwide, with record prices being set for the top lots.

For the sale's full auction results and a calendar of upcoming auction and events, please visit