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A VERY RARE WHITE GLASS EGG-FORM SNUFF BOTTLE
A VERY RARE WHITE GLASS EGG-FORM SNUFF BOTTLE

PROBABLY IMPERIAL, ATTRIBUTED TO THE PALACE WORKSHOPS, BEIJING, 1700-1780

Details
A VERY RARE WHITE GLASS EGG-FORM SNUFF BOTTLE
PROBABLY IMPERIAL, ATTRIBUTED TO THE PALACE WORKSHOPS, BEIJING, 1700-1780
The bottle of translucent white glass with a few scattered, elongated bubbles, overlaid on a layer of semi-transparent milky-white glass visible as a concentric circle around the mouth, enameled silver stopper with integral silver spoon
2 1/8 in. (5.3 cm.) high
Provenance
Grace Nicholson, Pasadena, California (no. C-180)
Henry and Florence Lang, Montclair, New Jersey, 13 May 1936
The Montclair Art Museum, (Accession no. 43.550-1943)
Sotheby's New York, 23 September 1995, lot 7
Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd.
Literature
Schuyler V.R. Cammann, Miniature Art From Old China. Chinese Snuff Bottles from the Montclair Art Museum Collections, 1982, no. 96
Exhibited
Christie's, Los Angeles 2003

Lot Essay

Despite their functional efficiency, simplicity and symbolism of fertility and the all-important continuation of the family line in the Confucian belief system, snuff bottles in the shape of eggs, without any compression of the form, are, oddly enough, extremely rare. For a bottle of related, but more compressed form, see Moss, Graham, Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, no. 1, Jade, no. 70.

It would appear that this bottle was intended to imitate white nephrite since the glassblower has left the bottle with unusually thick walls, giving it a convincing weight for jade. However, the few visible bubbles are elongated, suggesting the energy of the blow-iron, confirming that the bottle was blown and not carved from a single block of glass - a common method employed at the Imperial glassworks for producing glass in imitation of hard-stones. This bottle is in fact an overlay, albeit uncarved (sutao) as evidenced by the mouth of the vessel where the carver, responsible for grinding and polishing the blown form, cut through the upper layer to reveal the inner layer in a perfectly concentric circle around the mouth.

Although this bottle is obviously an early example, with the satiny surface of a much-used glass bottle which has never been re-polished, it is difficult to date precisely because of the lack of any apparent carving style and the rarity of form. However, an eighteenth-century date is almost certain, and this example most likely dates from the first half of the century.

Although there is no obvious reason, symbolically, for a lotus leaf to be linked with an egg, the stopper is a wonderful addition, and one that fits the bottle perfectly in every way, including an appropriate length for the integral silver spoon. The enamelling of the silver leaf is very cleverly irregular around the edges of the leaf, suggesting a typical, gradually dying leaf with its browner edges going first.
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