The workmanship and imagery depicted on the present parfumier indicate that it would almost certainly have been a piece reserved for Imperial use.
The inscription on the side of the cylinder can be translated as 'Imitating the style of Chen Suoweng's Nine Dragons'. It is in reference to the famous Southern Song painter Chen Rong (circa 1189-1258) who was renowned for his ethereal depictions of dragons emerging from wispy clouds. Compare a handscroll painting attributed to Chen Rong depicting a single dragon striding out of misty clouds, in the Palace Museum collection, illustrated in Zhongguo Huihua Quanzhi, Zhejiang renmin meishu chubanshe, vol. 4, 1999, p. 171, no. 132 (fig. 1). Also compare the well-known 'Nine Dragons' handscroll in the Boston Museum of Fine Art, illustrated op. cit., pp. 166-9, nos. 127-130. The dragons on the Boston handscroll are variously portrayed rising out of crested waves, clambering on jagged rocks, half-submerged in clouds and in pursuit of a pearl. All these attributes clearly provided the inspiration for later works of art, particularly in scholars' objects, such as present parfumier.
(Shi) Tian Zhang (1701-1774) was a native of Jiangsu province who was an accomplished artist in a variety of media including ivory carvings, paintings and lacquer but he particularly excelled in bamboo carvings. Known as an 'eccentric' artist, he was active during the Yongzheng and Qianlong reigns and according to Court records, in the 9th year of Yongzheng, he was employed as a senior craftsman in the Imperial workshops in Beijing. For examples of his work, compare an incense holder in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, vol. 44, Bamboo, Wood and Ivory Carvings, Hong Kong, 2002, p. 62, no. 56. A finger citron with a Tian Zhang mark in the Victoria and Albert Museum is illustrated by C. S. Tam, Chinese Bamboo Carving, Part 1, Hong Kong, 1978, pp. 184-185, no. 29.