A rare five-color-overlay pink glass snuff bottle, Imperial, Palace Workshops, Beijing, 1750-1850

A rare five-color-overlay pink glass snuff bottle, Imperial, Palace Workshops, Beijing, 1750-1850. Estimate $18,000 – $22,000. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

The bottle is carved through the opaque dark green, pale blue, yellow, red and pink overlay to the translucent pink glass ground with a design of a woven basket overflowing with blossoms and fruit including two finger citrons, begonias, sweet peas and a large peony. 2 7/8 in. (6 cm.) high, rose quartz stopper

ProvenanceHugh Moss (HK) Ltd., Hong Kong, 2001
Ruth and Carl Barron Collection, Belmont, Massachusetts, no. 3167.

ExhibitedCorning, New York, Corning Museum of Glass, 2007-2008.
Boston, International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society Convention, The Barron Collection, 23-26 September 2008.

NotesThere is a whole series of objects decorated with baskets of flowers or fruit decorations which can be associated with the eighteenth-century Qing Court. The design is found on Imperial porcelain dishes enameled at Jingdezhen and at the Court from the Yongzheng period and on a range of snuff bottles attributable to the Palace workshops. Three examples of these imperial examples were in the Bloch Collection. Two are of painted enamels on metal from the first half of the Qianlong period (see Moss, Graham, Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, the Mary and George Bloch Collection, Hong Kong, 2008, Volume 6, Part I, p. 162, no. 1079 and p. 163, no. 1080), while the third is of the Guyue Xuan glass group, an Imperial group of the late Qianlong period certainly associated with, if not made at the Court (ibid., p. 227, no. 1005). The design also started to appear on glass overlay bottles. For an early example of an early single-color overlay, probably Palace Workshops, where the fruits are contained in a bowl rather than a basket see Moss, Graham, Tsang, The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle, The J Collection, New York, 1993, Volume II, p. 603, no. 362. 

The pink ground color of the present example is extremely rare. The overall design is related to a pink and green overlay bottle formerly in the J Collection, which is designed with a similar green basket but with smaller pink begonia blossoms on a white ground (see ibid., p. 642, no. 393). It is interesting to compare the bases of these two bottles as they exhibit two independent design choices. On the present bottle, the basket motif does not continue on the base, presumably as a result of looking at painted-enamel versions which left the base plain for inclusion of a mark. On the J bottle the design of the basket continues on the base and imitates the base of a basket. 

The popularity of baskets in general at the Court may arise from the probable symbolism of the basket (lanzi) which may suggest male children (nanzi), one of the three desires dear to the Chinese heart which are embodied in the termsanduo ('three plenties'). These are, duofu ('plenty of happiness'), duoshou ('plenty of years to live') and duonanzi('plenty of male children'). 

Christie's. THE RUTH AND CARL BARRON COLLECTION OF FINE CHINESE SNUFF BOTTLES: PART I, 16 September 2015, New York, Rockefeller Plaza