This exquisitely carved bottle is part of a small group created in the late eighteenth century and continuing, perhaps, into the early nineteenth century. All are designed with two colors of overlay on a white ground. The two planes of overlay are distinctly carved and also overlap; the inner plane generally with a ground pattern, the outer plane with a mythological or narrative subject.
The present example can be compared with one of the earlier examples in this group, an exceptional and rare white and blue-overlay white glass bottle in the Bloch Collection, decorated with a dynamic design of two dragons on a ground of waves and clouds, 1760-1790 (see Moss, Graham, Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, the Mary and George Bloch Collection, Volume 5, Part 3, Hong Kong, 2002, pp. 675-676, no. 1001). The authors note the masterly balance of the overlays, which is evident on the present example, as well as the incredible technical control of the carver. While the two bottles differ in subject, they share a stunning concept of design as well as superb execution.
For other examples and a discussion of this group see ibid., pp. 680-685, nos. 1003-1005. Also see another related blue and white overlay example most likely from the same group, also depicting Meng Haoren but on a simpler ground than the present example, in the collection of Dennis Low and illustrated by D. Low in More Treasures from the Sanctum of Enlightened Respect, Hong Kong, 2002, p. 148, no. 137.
Meng Haoren was reputed to have a particular admiration of prunus blossoms and many depictions of the poet depict the theme of taxue xunmei ('Searching for prunus in the snow’). For a discussion of Meng Haoren see Ka Bo Tsang, “Who is the Rider on the Donkey?”, JICSBS, Summer, 1994, pp. 4-16, fig. 14.