The workmanship of the present parfumier is exceedingly good and the subjects are portrayed in exceptionally lively poses.
The depiction of horses appears to be a topical imagery during the early Qing dynasty among the Manchu rulers who were themselves descendants of nomadic herdsmen. It is known that Emperor Qianlong, whilst still a Prince, prided himself as a keen horseman as portrayed in Court paintings such as the hanging scroll painted by Lang Shining, entitled 'Hongli Hunting', included in the exhibition, The Golden Exile, Macao Museum of Art, 2002, and illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 10.
On bamboo carvings, there is an emergence of two dominant themes in which horses are the main focus. The first illustrates a group of figures observing horses which attributes to the story of Bole, the legendary expert on horses who is thought to have lived between 7th to 5th century BC. The other is a scene of horses being led, invariably in a forceful manner, by groomsmen into a river or stream presumably with the intention of bathing the horses as in the case of the present carving. Comparable scenes are found on brushpots in the Palace Museum, Beijing; the first is illustrated in The Palace Museum Collection of Elite Carvings, Forbidden City Publishing House, 2002, p. 52, no. 23. The other brushpot is illustrated by Wang Shixiang, Zhuku Jianshang, Taiwan, 1997, p. 117, no. 17.
The inscription is the name of the master carver, Wu Zhifan, whose designation was known as Lu Zhen. Wu was active during the kangxi period and amongst his favoured motifs were horses, buffaloes, figures playing chess. His name became well-known in 1775 when Emperor Qianlong praised the carving on a bamboo brushpot which was carved with the signature Chaqi Wu Luzhen, cf. Zhongguo Meishu Jiarenming Cidian, Shanghai renmin meishu chubanshe, p. 278. The carving on the present parfumier was probably executed at the studio of Wu Zhifan.