This bottle, with its natural form and patina, is perfectly balanced by the well-patinated stalk-form ivory stopper - possibly the original. It is rare to find a gourd snuff bottle with original stopper. For another gourd and ivory snuff bottle with original stopper, see the example from the J & J collection, sold in these rooms, 30 March 2005, lot 43 (also illustrated by Moss, Graham, Tsang, The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle. The J & J Collection, no. 274).
The gourd is grown widely in a variety of shapes and sizes, and its dried shell provides a very light, wood-hard, impervious container. Zhao Zhiqian, an early snuff bottle connoisseur, mentions gourd snuff bottles in his Yonglu Xianjie (see Richard John Lynn, "Researches Done During Spare Time into the Realm of Yong Lu, God of the Nose", JICSBS, Autumn 1991, p. 19) as not being for use: "Gourd bottles can merely be placed on the table." It is likely that at the time of Zhao's writing in the late nineteenth century, gourd bottles were rarely used, but functional examples were apparently made in earlier times (see Emily Byrne Curtis, "Snuff and Chinese Snuff Bottles. An Historical view" in J. Ford, Chinese Snuff Bottles. The Edward Choate O'Dell Collection, p. 22, note 23, where the author tells us of a gift made to the Portuguese Ambassador by the Qianlong Emperor in 1752 of a molded gourd bottle). It is unlikely that the Qianlong Emperor would have been giving away purely decorative snuff bottles in the mid-eighteenth century. Furthermore, there is also evidence of the production of gourd bottles at the Palace Workshops at an early date. In particular, there are four Qianlong-dated molded gourd snuff bottles still in the Imperial Collection, see Snuff Bottles in the Collection of the National Palace Museum, nos. 409-12.