Yixing in Jiangsu province to the west of Shanghai is associated with a distinctive stoneware called "purple clay." The unglazed, fired clay is usually purplish-brown, but its color can vary from pale beige to brown to green. Yixing ware has been produced for nearly a thousand years in the same place, but came to aesthetic prominence only in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (during the late Ming dynasty), when the scholar class found it a suitable material for teapots and other table articles.
Yixing snuff bottles are often left plain but examples exist with decoration painted in slip, carved or enameled. The enameled versions derive their subject matter from the rivers, lakes and mountains of the Jiangnan (South of the River) area around Yixing that inspired the works of so many literati living there. Although the style is different, the themes of the enameled wares relate to those decorated with slip designs, such as those illustrated by Moss, Graham and Tsang, in The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle. The J & J Collection, nos. 253-55; B. Stevens, in A Collector's Book of Chinese Snuff Bottles, nos. 338 and 339; and L.S. Perry, in Chinese Snuff Bottles. The Adventures and Studies of a Collector, p. 77, no. 51. A very similar bottle, formerly from the Meriem Collection, was sold in these rooms, 19 September 2007, lot 641.
The faceted form of the present bottle was no doubt influenced by contemporary faceted vessels that were being produced at the Palace workshops.