Yixing in Jiangsu province gives its name to this distinctive stoneware. In production for nearly a thousand years in the same place, Yixing wares only came into artistic prominence in the later Ming dynasty, when they were adopted by the scholar class as a suitable material for teapots and thence for other items for the scholar’s studio. For snuff bottles, slip-decorated wares were one of the three types popularly produced, the others being enameled and plain pottery wares. Slip is simply a watered-down version of whatever ceramic is being used, which can be applied like a thick paint, or used for gluing segments together.
The Qing Emperors were surrounded by the intellectual elite of China, many of whom would have been devotees of the scholarly wares of Yixing. It stands to reason that some of these scholarly individuals would have had direct connection to various top Yixing potters, thus creating the conduit for occasional, specific Imperial orders. The kilns were first ordered to produce wares for the Qing court in the late Kangxi period. These comprise a small group of wares, now in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, which were sent to the Palace workshops to be embellished with famille rose enamels (see K.S. Lo, The Stonewares of Yixing from the Ming Period to the Present Day, pp. 133-35, pls. 60-4). It is believed that these slip-decorated snuff bottles began to be first produced at the same time as enameled bottles were produced in the latter part of the Qianlong reign.
The present bottle was one of the most treasured in the Holden collection with its moniker being used as the title for the book, Rivers and Mountains Far From the World. Previously in the collections of Lilla S. Perry and Bob C. Stevens, this bottle has been admired and treasured by many prominent collectors. In her book, Rivers and Mountains Far From the World - The Rachelle R. Holden Collection, A Personal Commentary, New York, 1994, p. 264, Rachelle Holden commented: “It is hard to view this bottle as anything other than a painting…the decoration on this bottle produces a feeling of vast and endless space, linking the diminutive form of man to both the solid earth and the imaginary realms of heaven.”
For related bottles see Important Chinese Snuff Bottles from the J & J Collection, Part III; Christie’s New York, 29 March 2006, lot 22; C. Chu, Chinese Snuff Bottles from Southern California Collectors, Hong Kong, 2016, p. 34; and H. Franz, Franzart, Chinese Art from the Hedda and Lutz Franz Collection, Hong Kong, 2011, p.128, no. 1377.