This snuff bottle is one of two known pieces of Kangxi glass with an Imperial mark (although three pieces of enameled glass are also reign-marked from the period). The other is a faceted clear glass waterpot in the Imperial collection in Beijing, published in Luster of Autumn Water. Glass of the Qing Imperial Workshop, pp. 114-15, no. 1. Heavily crizzled sapphire-blue glass, as here, is consistent with glass of the Kangxi and Yongzheng periods and was among the first colors produced by the Imperial glassworks after they were set up in 1696. Up to the 1730s, the formula for most transparent glass contained an imbalance of chemical components that resulted extensive crizzling and glass disease. The opacifying agents in more translucent glass, such as white and yellow, protected the glass from these initial problems. The Imperial workshops were established at Canchikou in the Imperial city under the direction of the Jesuit missionary Kilian Stumpf (1655-1720). German glassmakers were proficient in engraving glass, so it follows that European stylistic and technical expertise was imparted to the artisans responsible for this bottle.
See a faceted blue glass snuff bottle attributed to the late Kangxi or early Yongzheng period, formerly in the J & J Collection, and sold in these rooms, 29 March 2006, lot 80; and another with raised circular panels on both main sides, in Moss, Graham and Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, Vol. 5, Glass, no. 785.
The fenghuang represents prosperity and great blessings, and in combination with the peony, forms the rebus, fugui jixiang (May there be wealth, rank and good fortune). In addition, when the "king of birds" is paired with the "king of flowers," they provide a symbol for great blessings.
The inscription on the reverse from Cao Cao's Duangexing (Short Songs) may be translated:
"Youyou" the deer cries,
Grazing on the wild rushes;
I have a guest;
Drums roll and the reed pipe blows.