A Very Rare Carved Green And Pink Tourmaline Snuff Bottle, Imperial, Palace Workshops, 1760-1799. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2013
The bottle is ingeniously carved utilizing the contrasting colors of the material to define the lower and upper sections. The lower section is of intense rose-pink tone and carved with a peony blossom on one side and a bouquet of lotus on the reverse. The upper section is of pale sea-green tone and is carved on either side with a pair of confronted chi dragons. 2 in. (5.2 cm.) high, glass stopper. Estimate: $40,000 - $60,000
Provenance: Christie's New York, 29 March 1983, lot 252.
Literature: Noëlle King O'Connor, "Water: Changing Imagery in Chinese Art," Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, Baltimore, Autumn 1994,p. 9, fig. 11.
Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, Baltimore, Winter 1996, front cover..
Exhibited: Taipei Gallery, New York, Chinese Snuff Bottles, 1-29 October 1993, p. 11.
Notes: While a great percentage of extant tourmaline snuff bottles were long relegated to the late Qing dynasty or Republic period, recent scholarship has revealed that tourmaline bottles were also made during the 18th and early 19th centuries. This remarkable two-color example is part of the rare group of early Imperial semi-precious stone bottles that can now be dated within the latter part of the 18th century. See Moss, Graham, Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, The Mary and George Bloch Collection, Vol. 3, Stones other than Jade and Quartz, Hong Kong, 1998, pp. 103-5, no. 407, for a discussion of tourmaline bottles and the scholarship leading to their re-attribution.
Decorated with an archaistic design, the style of carving of this bottle can be linked to a well-known group of bottles attributed to the Palace Workshops of the late Qianlong period (see ibid., Vol. 2, Part 2, Quartz, Hong Kong, 1998, p. 168, no. 354 for an Imperial carved chalcedony example with formalized chi dragon). The use of the dichromic material is extremely rare and only three examples are known. One is illustrated by Clare Lawrence in Miniature Masterpieces from the Middle Kingdom, The Monimar Collection of Chinese Snuff Bottles, London, 1996, pp. 88-9, no. 38, which is carved with an archaistic dragon but with the green area of the stone confined to the foot. Another is in the Marakovic Collection and is unpublished
Christie's. The Hildegard Schonfeld Collection of Fine Chinese Snuff Bottles. 21 March 2013. New York, Rockefeller Plaza.