A white and blue-overlay white glass snuff bottle, possibly Imperial, Palace Workshops, Beijing, 1760-1790

A white and blue-overlay white glass snuff bottle, possibly Imperial, Palace Workshops, Beijing, 1760-1790. Estimate $15,000 – $20,000. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

The translucent white and transparent sapphire-blue glass overlays are carved through to the translucent white body with a continuous scene of a scholar riding a donkey across a bridge, possibly Meng Haoren, accompanied by a young attendant carrying a vase holding a prunus branch, all beneath arching prunus trees. The other side is decorated with a scene of a scholar sitting at the window of a pavilion watching his attendant sweep the terrace. The blue overlay beneath is carved with clouds billowing through bamboo and prunus trees.; 3 ¼ in. (8.2 cm.) high, glass stopper

Provenance: Sotheby's London, 23 March 1988, lot 290.
Bentley Collection, London.
Asian Art Studio, Los Angeles, California.
Robert Kleiner, London, 2008.
Ruth and Carl Barron Collection, Belmont, Massachusetts, no. 4855.

Literature: Clare and Michael Chu, The Bentley Collection of Chinese Snuff Bottles, Los Angeles, 2008, p. 28.

Exhibited: Boston, International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society Convention, Asian Art Studio, September 2008.

NotesThis exquisitely carved bottle is part of a small group created in the late eighteenth century and continuing, perhaps, into the early nineteenth century. All are designed with two colors of overlay on a white ground. The two planes of overlay are distinctly carved and also overlap; the inner plane generally with a ground pattern, the outer plane with a mythological or narrative subject. 

The present example can be compared with one of the earlier examples in this group, an exceptional and rare white and blue-overlay white glass bottle in the Bloch Collection, decorated with a dynamic design of two dragons on a ground of waves and clouds, 1760-1790 (see Moss, Graham, Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, the Mary and George Bloch Collection, Volume 5, Part 3, Hong Kong, 2002, pp. 675-676, no. 1001). The authors note the masterly balance of the overlays, which is evident on the present example, as well as the incredible technical control of the carver. While the two bottles differ in subject, they share a stunning concept of design as well as superb execution.

For other examples and a discussion of this group see ibid., pp. 680-685, nos. 1003-1005. Also see another related blue and white overlay example most likely from the same group, also depicting Meng Haoren but on a simpler ground than the present example, in the collection of Dennis Low and illustrated by D. Low in More Treasures from the Sanctum of Enlightened Respect, Hong Kong, 2002, p. 148, no. 137.

Meng Haoren was reputed to have a particular admiration of prunus blossoms and many depictions of the poet depict the theme of taxue xunmei ('Searching for prunus in the snow’). For a discussion of Meng Haoren see Ka Bo Tsang, “Who is the Rider on the Donkey?”, JICSBS, Summer, 1994, pp. 4-16, fig. 14.

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