In 1904 Ye Zhongsan was still working alone; the first of his sons did not join him in producing works under his name until about 1913. By 1904, however, the typical family style was already well established, with its preference for figure subjects, usually in brightly colored clothing. This is an extremely unusual subject for Ye, produced before a marked tendency to repeat subjects and compositions in a commercial manner, although he did produce other scenes of figures in snowy landscapes during this early period.
This bottle is the only bottle out of the hundreds produced by the Ye family that names their studio in the inscription (Apricot Grove), making it a rare and documentary piece. Ye Bengqi confirmed the name of the family studio in an interview with Hugh Moss in Beijing in 1974, until then unknown to the snuff bottle enthusiast.
See the note to lot 279 for the significance of the deer as a decorative motif and the note to lot 272 for Ye's depiction of horses on inside-painted snuff bottles.