Hornbill was a valued substance to the Chinese well before snuff bottles came into fashion in the Qing dynasty. It came into its own, however, for the manufacture of Qing belt-buckles, snuff bottles, and other small objects during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Among the greatest carvers of the material was the scholarly artist known as Baishi, who signed his wares and dated two of them, establishing himself as having worked in the Daoguang period. Although many of his bottles are signed, it is also obvious that he produced unsigned works as well (see, for instance, a bottle formerly from the Meriem Collection, sold in our New York Rooms, 19 September 2007, lot 707). Many of his signed works are carved with very similar chi dragon narrow sides, as seen on the present example, allowing the possibility that the workshop with which he was associated also made a range of plain bottles.
See also a bottle with a similar design signed Baishi and dated 1836 sold in our New York Rooms, 22 March 2007, lot 9. See another example dated to 1843 but carved on one side with a qilin reaching towards the sun illustrated in J. Ford, Chinese Snuff Bottles, the Edward Choate O'Dell Collection, Baltimore,1982, no.76