This large and impressive nephrite ashtray decorated with a silver snake was acquired by Prince Alexander of Battenberg (1886-1960), a grandson of Queen Victoria. Born at Windsor Castle, Alexander was the eldest of the four children of Princess Beatrice and Prince Henry of Battenberg.
Prince Alexander attended Wellington College in Crowthorne. Following the graduation, he served in the Royal Navy between 1902 and 1908. In 1911, Prince Alexander joined the British Army and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1913 and in 1915, the year he acquired the present ashtray, he was promoted to captain.
When World War I started in August of 1914, Prince Alexander’s regiment was under deployment orders. In 1917, he was awarded the Russian Order of St Vladimir Fourth Class with Swords, for distinguished service to the Allied cause.
For a comparable nephrite dish with a snake from the collection of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, see Exhibition catalogue, Wartski, Japonisme: from Falize to Fabergé, London, 2011, p. 69, no. 130.