Yixing in Jiangsu province gives its name to this distinctive stoneware. In production for nearly a thousand years in the same place, the Yixing kilns only came into artistic prominence in the later Ming dynasty, when the stoneware was adopted by the scholar class as a suitable material for teapots and thence for other items for the scholar's studio. In snuff bottles, slip-decorated wares form quite a considerable portion of the known output.
Yixing sits within the Jiangnan region, beloved by the literati for its idyllic scenery. This bottle belongs to a group of similar bottles decorated in slip; all with a painterly view of a waterside pavilion on one side clearly inspired by literati landscape paintings. The reverse of these bottles is often left undecorated to allow for the addition of a carved inscription, or sometimes painted with a boldly rendered grouping of flowers or fruit. Current research suggests that all the snuff bottles of this slip-decorated group were produced in the same workshop, and may have been painted by the same artist known as The Slip Master (Moss, Graham, Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, The Mary and George Bloch Collection, Vol. 6, Part 3, Arts of the Fire, Hong Kong, 2008, p. 944). The present bottle is a particularly distinguished example of this group. The elegant, hexagonal tapering form is quite rare, and the decoration of leaves and berries on the opposite side is as refined as the landscape on the front.
A nearly identical bottle from The Joe Grimberg Collection was sold at Sotheby's New York, 14 September 2010, lot 31. Another hexagonal bottle from this group, with rounded corners, is in the Crane Collection, no. 356.
Related bottles of the more typical flat, rounded form, also probably by The Slip Master, can be found in several prominent collections. An example from the J & J Collection was sold in these rooms 30 March 2005, lot 78, and subsequently published in Moss, Graham, Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, The Mary and George Bloch Collection, Vol. 6, Part 3, Arts of the Fire, Hong Kong, 2008, p. 946, no. 1450, along with three others (nos. 1448, 1449, 1451). A comprehensive listing of published examples from the group is cited on p. 945. A flattened, rounded rectangular bottle decorated by the same hand, also from the J & J Collection, was sold in these rooms, 17 September 2008, lot 74.