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    Sale 2026

    Important Chinese Snuff Bottles From The J&J Collection, Part V

    17 September 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 79

    **A RARE AND UNUSUAL CARVED AMBER SNUFF BOTTLE

    1750-1880

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    **A RARE AND UNUSUAL CARVED AMBER SNUFF BOTTLE
    1750-1880
    Of flattened form with flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a footrim, carved on one side with two quail looking at each other under a ripe head of millet, the other main side with a carp leaping from turbulent water in front of a flowering lotus plant, the narrow sides with mask-and-ring handles, carnelian stopper with gilt-bronze collar
    2 in. (7.02 cm.) high


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    An auspicious rebus appears to be implied through the subject of quail and millet, since the Chinese character for 'quail' (an) has the same sound as the character for 'peace', and the ear of grain is a pun for 'year' (sui), the combination suggesting a wish for peace year after year. The three heads of grain form a desire for an excellent harvest as well. This subject was popular during the eighteenth century and is found on enameled wares associated with the Court. See, for example, a Beijing enamel bottle formerly from the Meriem Collection, sold in these rooms, 19 September 2007, lot 633, also with a design of quails and millet.

    The lotus (he) leaf and a big (da) carp (liyu) forms the rebus hebao dali ('May your purse be filled with good profits'). At the same time, the carp struggling upstream symbolizes the aspirations of the scholar. The lotus is one of the most familiar subjects in Chinese art. Since the perfect flower emerges from mud and murky waters, the lotus was adopted as a symbol of integrity and came to be associated with the upright gentleman. The lotus is also a Buddhist symbol of purity, and its formalized overlapping petals can be seen adorning the bases of Buddhist sculptures from the sixth century onwards.

    The clever use of the material here is unusual for this range of amber snuff bottles and seems to reflect the growing popularity of parti-colored hardstone bottles of the mid-Qing period, where the coloring in the stone is used as cameo relief (in the style of the 'Official School'). The ear of millet on one side, and the lotus and one fin of the fish on the other, have been carved making full use of each patch - may have been a response to the increased popularity of chalcedony bottles.

    Special Notice

    Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.


    Provenance

    Ambassador T.T. Li, Shanghai, 1945


    Literature

    Moss, Graham, Tsang, The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle. The J & J Collection, Vol. 2, no. 293


    Exhibited

    Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, 1968
    Christie's, New York, 1993
    Empress Place Museum, Singapore, 1994
    Museum für Kunsthandwerk, Frankfurt, 1996-1997
    Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London, 1997
    Naples Museum of Art, Florida, 2002
    Portland Museum of Art, Oregon, 2002
    National Museum of History, Taipei, 2002
    International Asian Art Fair, Seventh Regiment Armory, New York, 2003
    Poly Art Museum, Beijing, 2003