This bottle belongs to a group from the mid-Qing period, all probably from the same workshops, and all of which bear the typically courtly design of kui dragons and fenghuang surrounding central shou characters. The only difference lies in the color of the enamels used and whether the cloisons were completely filled, or only partially, as here.
These cloisonné enamel bottles have thin strips of wire soldered onto the copper or bronze body, creating separate channels called cloisons, which are then filled with different-colored enamels and fired in a kiln at low temperatures for a short period of time. In the case of this example, however, only some areas were infilled, providing a design in relief against the gilded ground. A magnificent double vase decorated in this technique, dated to 1786, is in the Uldry collection (see H. Brinker and A. Lutz, Chinese Cloisonné. The Pierre Uldry Collection, no. 304). Another snuff bottle of the group from the Meriem Collection was sold in these rooms, 19 September 2007, lot 645. See also one illustrated in Chinese Snuff Bottles in the Seattle Art Museum, pl. 55, lower left; one in the collection of the Marquess of Exeter with its original stopper, illustrated by H. Moss, Chinese Snuff Bottles No. 6, E. 30; one with original stopper illustrated by L. Perry, Chinese Snuff Bottles. The Adventures & Studies of a Collector, no. 162; one in the Denis Low Collection, illustrated by R. Kleiner, Treasures from the Sanctum of Enlightened Respect, p. 212, no. 229; and another in M. Hughes, The Blair Bequest. Chinese Snuff Bottles from the Princeton University Art Museum, no. 339. One more extremely rare version of this design is illustrated by Laurence Souksi in the exhibition catalogue Merveilles de la Miniature Chinoise. Flacons-Tabatières de Chine de la Collection du Commandeur, Paris, 2000, no. 2.
A feature of partially-filled cloisonné wares is the jewel-like appearance, caused by the enamels bulging slightly out of the cloisons, instead of having been polished to a uniform, flat surface.