This bottle is one of two in the Meriem Collection (the other was sold in these rooms, 19 September 2007, lot 706) from a famous set of eight exquisite enameled bottles that are among the finest of all Jiaqing Imperial porcelain snuff bottles. Boxed sets of these elegant bottles would have been ordered from the Imperial kilns at Jingde Zhen during the late Qianlong and early Jiaqing periods to be presented as gifts. This set appears to be unique in that the shapes, border patterns and marks are identical, but each has a different auspicious theme. Moss, Graham and Tsang illustrate two bottles from the set (one of which was sold in these rooms, 22 March 2007, lot 25) in The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle. The J & J Collection, pp. 366-67, nos. 212 and 213. Two others from the Bloch Collection (ex Galia Baylin and Belfort Collections) are illustrated by R. Kleiner, in Chinese Snuff Bottles from the Collection of Mary and George Bloch, pp. 164-65, no. 222). Two others in the Stempel Collection were sold, Sotheby's PB84, New York, 11 October 1979, lot 63. They probably all came out of China in the 1960s and were split up into pairs, and acquired for four prominent Hong Kong collections.
Magu is the female equivalent of Shoulao, the God of Longevity, and is often portrayed as a young girl. She was believed to be able to brew longevity wine from lingzhi, the fungus of immortality, and her image first appeared on early Ming-dynasty porcelain from Jingde Zhen, and became standard during the Kangxi period. Shoulao is often portrayed with a long staff and the peach of immortality. The peach is an allusion to the peach orchard of the Queen Mother of the West, whose trees blossom once every three thousand years and whose fruit takes another three thousand years to ripen.