In the early-Qianlong period, under the directorship of Tang Ying at Jingde Zhen, a series of spectacular enameled porcelain snuff bottles were produced in very small quantities for the court. This set the standard for porcelain production of Imperial snuff bottles into the Daoguang period, although stylistically the designs and forms changed considerably over the century of their production. This superb and rare example probably dates from the mid-Qianlong reign, while production was either still under the control of Tang Ying, or still heavily influenced by his style and spectacular quality of enameling. See a Qianlong-marked example illustrated in Snuff Bottles in the Collection of the National Palace Museum, no. 77 (but without the pendent lingzhi-heads around the mouth); and another in D. Low, More Treasures from the Sanctum of Enlightened Respect, no. 162.
For a Jiaqing marked example of the evolving group, see lot 232.
The slightly raised circular panels on this bottle derive from early Beijing enamel and glass snuff bottles from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, themselves possibly inspired by the case decoration of imported European pocket watches.
The magnolia is a symbol of purity and its name is a pun on the Chinese word for "jade" (yu). See the note to lot 212 for an explanation of the symbolism of the peony.