Zhou Honglai was among the finest of the artists who specialized in micro-engraving at the end of the Qing dynasty. He worked mostly on glass, but occasionally on porcelain, such as the example illustrated by V. Jutheau, Guide du collectionneur de tabatières chinoises, p.95, and also illustrated by G. Tsang and H. Moss, Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, no.244. A native of Baimen (modern day Nanjing), Zhou's works are inscribed as made at other places, including Hangzhou, which he describes visiting. Zhou was certainly a scholar and, like Ding Erzhong, practiced his art for a number of different patrons, and apparently also gave bottles as gifts to selected friends.
In Moss, Graham, Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, Vol.5, Glass, his works are discussed under nos. 1049-56, and his career, according to dated works, spanned the years from 1895 (A Congregation of Snuff Bottle Connoisseurs, no.60) to 1909 (the porcelain example cited above). The glass used for the present bottle, as well as the form, is typical of that used so often by Zhou, and it can be assumed that he had them made.
See a comparable example from the artist from the J & J collection, sold in our New York Rooms, 22 March 2007, lot 28.