This exquisite, miniature sculpture belongs to a very small group of early nephrite animals many of which are of white jade, and most of which are characterized by sculptural elegance and painstaking hollowing. Another, slightly larger, bear-form bottle of the same model, similar in style so as to suggest the same hand or workshop, was sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 29 April 1992, lot 555; while a bear with its cub, also from the J & J Collection, is depicted in The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle, no. 2. Apart from the present lot and no. 2, the J & J Collection also contains other animal-form bottles, nos. 3-5. Another similar white jade bear-form bottle from the Museum of History in Taipei is illustrated by Dai Zhongren, Cun Tian Li Di Jian, Zhongguo Biyan Hu De Yishu, Taiwan, 1998, p. 180, where the author also makes reference to the bottles in the J & J and Bloch collections.
Other snuff bottles from this small group include pigs or boars, such as the ones illustrated by Hugh Moss, Snuff Bottles of China, no. 33; Robert Kleiner, Chinese Snuff Bottles from the Collection of Mary and George Bloch, no. 56; Harriet H. Hamilton, Oriental Snuff Bottles, p. 34, J-59; and another sold in our London Rooms, 12 October 1987, lot 342. For dogs, see Chinese Snuff Bottles No. 3, p. 24, fig. 14 and a rare brown crystal example sold in our London Rooms, 12 October 1987, lot 357.
Compare also with two bear-shaped bottles illustrated by Hugh Moss, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, vol. 1, nos. 1 and 42.