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Part III:
The Rising Importance
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The Marakovic Collection

Hugh Moss and Stuart Sargent

Part II: Non-Imperial Snuff Bottles
The Earlier Phase

II1 II10 II.29

There are good indications that the habit of snuffing and the concomitant production of snuff bottles were mainly confined to the north at first, surrounding the court. The fact that snuff was usually imported ensured that administrators in the ports would have able to siphon some off for their own use, but smoked tobacco was more popular in both senses of the word: it was more widespread, and it remained the favoured method of nicotine intake among the lower classes. Because of the imperial preference for snuffing so firmly established by the Kangxi emperor, the upper classes preferred snuff. The fact that only the privileged few could afford expensive imported snuff or the finest local snuff enhanced its appeal.

It is perhaps surprising that snuffing seems to have remained a predominantly northern habit well into the Qianlong era; even after it had expanded nationwide, Beijing and the north were still the centre of the snuff-bottle world. If one is prepared to believe looters of private tombs during the past century, it seems that around Beijing the majority of opened tombs yielded at least one snuff bottle, sometimes more, while they are the exception in other areas. Only gradually, through gift-giving and postings of high officials from the court to regional centres, did snuff spread outside the capital. At some point, a high official sent out from Beijing, having become accustomed to imperial-workshop snuff bottles at court, must have decided to have his own bottles made by artisans in his locality, which raises the question of whether it would have been possible, in certain materials, to produce bottles that were largely indistinguishable from the imperial output of the eighteenth century. That might have been particularly likely in the case of private production in and around Beijing. Northern and imperial style would have certainly dominated the initial private production there, and may have influenced far-flung production to some extent, too. To acknowledge this possibility, we have included here a few bottles that are of imperial style and probably imperial but that could conceivably be private.

However, before we step onto the thin ice of such speculation, we can begin on the solid foundations of painted enamels on metal, which are delightfully identifiable as to date and place of manufacture. The art of painting with enamels on metal was introduced by Europeans who were obliged to spend time in Guangzhou awaiting permission to proceed to the capital. During their layover, which could be quite lengthy, they showed off their skills to local officials, who in their astuteness soon set up workshops to make these new wares for local use or, more importantly, presentation to the court. We can trace Guangzhou wares back to early in the second decade of the eighteenth century, so it is certain that the art form was mastered at Guangzhou as soon as it was at Beijing.

Fortunately, these early wares are distinctive. One of the most convincing and impressive is in the Marakovic collection as part of its formidable strength in enamelled wares (fig. II.1). Quite apart from its obviously early style of painting, which can be linked to other wares from the Kangxi period, this bottle has other features that establish it as part of the earliest snuff-bottle production. These early metal wares often leave raised metal areas (such as the frame around the panels here) bare of enamel. The unusually broad flared foot on this bottle, giving great stability but looking strange once the standard eighteenth-century foot becomes well established, is also a feature of early wares, particularly of Guangzhou enamels. This is the most exaggerated of all of them. The interior is not enamelled, although the inner flared lip is, and, finally, the bands of floral borders in black (often with gold detailing, as here) on a white ground are typical of early wares; they are derived from certain French enamels from Limoges which are known to have been in China in the late Kangxi period. We can confidently attribute this example to the last decade of the Kangxi reign. It is a rare luxury to be able to do so.

Discussing the bottle in figure I.58, we remarked on the Christian iconography detectable in depictions of Western women with a single child. On this bottle, the colours and the composition on one side suggest the Holy Family—though there are obvious differences in the conception. What is most interesting is the persistence of the colour scheme on both sides of the bottle. In what we may call the seduction scene, the man is on the right, wearing the blue and red that properly belong to Mary, and the woman has a purple cloak or sash over her right arm. In the family scene, the blue and red remain on the right side but are worn by the woman, and the purple stays on the left side but is now on the arm of the man. What this tells us is that the artist is copying the colour scheme and overall composition of Christian models (not necessarily first-hand, of course, though that would not be impossible) in order to make his picture ‘Western’; he then fills in the details in such a way as to tell a story of sex and consequences, but for some reason he feels compelled to maintain consistency in the underlying colour scheme, as if to change it would be to somehow break the spell of exoticism.

Among the early bottles that were definitely not made at the court or even elsewhere in the north are those made in the jade-carving workshops of Suzhou. To be sure, Suzhou provided the court with vast quantities of carved jades, often in response to imperial orders that might have included wares designed in Beijing and in courtly style. However, at least one workshop, and probably more, worked in a distinctive local style that we have dubbed the Zhiting 芝亭 school, based on the name that one particular eighteenth-century carver regularly signed on some of the works.

Quite a lot of examples from the eighteenth century can be attributed to the school, and we may safely assume that a substantial proportion of these were for a non-imperial market: since the Qianlong emperor is on record as not being overly fond of the rather elaborate and detailed style the city’s jade-carvers fell into when they were left to their own devices, it is clear that they had other customers who embraced that very style. The luxury economy of the Lower Yangzi region had recovered from the bloody Ming – Qing transition, and the superior educational opportunities that wealth could provide ensured that a high proportion of office-holders would come from this area, office-holders who would develop a taste for snuffing in Beijing and bring it back when they were on leave or in retirement. They would have been the patrons of a large non-imperial production of jade and agate bottles from Suzhou that can be confidently attributed to the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as well as of an unknown volume of bottles, often in other materials, that were made so similar to imperial style that they cannot be distinguished as private Suzhou products.

As imperial influence over style and production waned, it is quite likely that the requirements of wealthy non-imperial patrons kept standards high at Suzhou. If masterly quality at Suzhou lasted far longer than at the palace workshops, it could prove difficult to distinguish between early and late production. For the moment, however, we shall assume that such bottles as the ones in figures II.2 and II.3, two masterpieces of the genre, represent the finest of eighteenth century carving, even though their standards may have been maintained well into the first half of the nineteenth century. The first is unusually well hollowed for a Suzhou bottle. The carvers of Suzhou preferred virtuoso carving to virtuoso hollowing; perhaps this bottle was made for a patron from the north who was used to thinner walls. The second is more typical, with its deep, multi-plane relief and well-executed (but not extensive) hollowing.

Both snuff bottles are typical of the Zhiting school, where every nuance of colour is used to masterly effect and the carving is powerful, fluid, and utterly convincing, but they represent different styles within the school. The well-hollowed bottle in figure II.2 is of the finest low-relief style, where all the details are gently rounded and completely integrated into the ground plane, making the bottle smooth and comfortable in the hand; the bottle in figure II.3 is more emphatic, with slightly higher relief and a more angular approach to the landscape setting. This second, multi-plane group becomes much more emphatic, but intermediate bottles between the two extremes (the bottle in figure II.4, for instance) show beyond a doubt that they are likely to represent different approaches from the same workshops, dictated perhaps by material, but more likely by either the demands of patrons or perhaps the style of individual artistic direction in the workshops over a number of decades.

The unusual cameo bottle in figure II.5 is an extremely rare Zhiting-school example, one of a small group of agate bottles from this school where spectacular material with areas of cream and beige is used to considerable effect. Here, the cameo relief of the monkey and horse in this range of material is a powerful counterpoint to the standard carved ground-colour design of the landscape setting. There can be no doubt that at its best the Zhiting school at Suzhou represents one of the high points of Chinese hardstone carving.

Another distinctive school that might have been regional, perhaps also working in the Jiangnan area and even in Suzhou, but equally possibly in Yangzhou or another major cultural centre where hardstones were carved, is the so-called ‘Master of the Rocks’ school, discussed in detail in A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, i: Jade under nos. 133 – 143. There is considerable evidence that bottles of this school were produced regularly for the court, so it may have been a palace-workshop style, but perhaps it is more likely that the school represents a regional style whose wares were regularly ordered for the court. Imperial patronage would explain the typically imperial subjects, forms, or mask-and-ring handles, but there are many snuff bottles with less specifically imperial subjects that would have found equal appeal with a broader audience. The bottle in figure II.6, for instance, with its generally auspicious subject matter of an immortal plying a log raft on a river, could be either imperial or a private product. Raft-riders figure in several Chinese legends and are therefore difficult to identify, but this one is probably the long-lived Magu 麻姑. She is usually pictured in more regal attire but often presents peaches, symbol of immortality.

Whatever the gravitational pull of imperial style in the mid Qing, it is a certainty that the spread of snuffing beyond the inner circles of the court stimulated the considerable production of snuff bottles for a non-imperial market in the more popular range of materials. One of these would have been nephrite, which was paramount among stones in the Chinese mind and had been for millennia. Part of the Imperial Household Department’s profit from its monopoly in nephrite during and after the Qianlong era was through the sale of surplus material to the Salt Administrations, silk factories, and customs houses of the lower Yangzi area; nephrite was also smuggled directly from the producing areas to Suzhou. The fact that virtually all nephrite came one way or another from a common source makes it that much more difficult, especially when dealing with plain, natural pebble-form bottles with no decoration, to distinguish ones made for the court from ones made for a scholar in Hangzhou or a merchant in Yangzhou.

The spectacularly well-carved and splendidly white nephrite of the bottle in figure II.7 gives us more to work with, fortunately. It shows no particular sign of having any imperial connection, and, given its early-eighteenth-century low-relief Suzhou style, it is probably a private product. This quality of low-relief carving was standard at Suzhou, which played host to far more workshops than the one on which we in the snuff-bottle world focus (the Zhiting school); the style evolved from the more refined non-archaistic wares of the famous late-Ming jade carver of Suzhou, Lu Zigang 陸子剛, whose ‘signature’ was used on a significant proportion of such wares well into the late Qing dynasty, more as a generic ‘trademark’ for Suzhou style than as a serious attempt at fooling patrons. The bottle in figure II.7 is signed Meixi 梅溪 (Prunus Brook), but this is probably not the carver; it is more likely to be the author of the inscription (which relates to the scene on the other side and is from an unknown source) or the calligrapher whose style is being imitated. (A possible candidate is Qian Yong 錢泳, 1759 – 1844, said to have been a fine writer of clerical script, which is used in the inscription here; Qian Yong used the sobriquet Meixi.) The inscription reads, 牽牛聘織女借營室, 錢久不償, 天帝怒令居漢東西, 惟七夕一相見 (‘The oxherd took the weaving girl as his wife and borrowed the [constellation] Yingshi; they did not return the money for a long time; the God of Heaven got angry and made them live [separately] to the east and west of the [Heavenly] Han River; only on the night of the seventh [day of the seventh month] could they meet once.’) This is apparently a version of the famous legend about the two stars Altair and Vega, who borrowed twenty-thousand cash from Tiandi, the God of Heaven (and the weaving girl’s father), but neglected to pay it back. The God of Heaven punished them by separating them on either side of the Milky Way, permitting them to meet only on the seventh day of the seventh month.

Given the longevity and possible geographic diversity of the production of bottles apparently made for the use of officials and aspiring officials, it is no surprise to discover that there are several subgroups identifiable among them. We have dubbed the producer of one of these subgroups the ‘Cameo Ink-Play Master’, but of course we have no idea whether ‘he’ was a master lapidary, the supervisor of a lapidary workshop, or simply a set of techniques and design principles shared by carvers over the years in a certain place. Much less do we know whether the snuff bottles we group under this name were made at the court, at Suzhou, at Yangzhou, or somewhere else. They are always spectacular, with astonishingly imaginative use of the natural colours in the material, excellent hollowing, and lovely, softly rounded and polished, highly detailed workmanship. One of the Cameo Ink-Play Master’s signature predilections was for agate containing some white material he could pick out to make a bird, a face or, in the case of the spectacular Marakovic example (fig. II.8), a bear. The bird flying above the bear is undoubtedly meant to be an eagle (ying 鷹); with the bear (xiong 熊) it forms a rebus for a hero or a man of superior qualities (yingxiong 英雄). The artist has followed the dark marking in the agate in delineating the bird's body, head, and beak, and this has forced him to give the raptor the beak of a seed eater. However, the eagle – bear combination is so ubiquitous that we would be obtuse to hold the carver to ornithological correctness.

As we noted in our discussion of the bottle in figure I.296, the silhouette type snuff bottle became popular during the nineteenth century, although its roots undoubtedly lie in the eighteenth century. With the most natural type, where only a little editing is need to bring out the subject, birds were among the most popular motifs. Because of their simple shape, they were easily ‘found’ in the stone. The bottle in figure II.9 is a typical and powerful example, with what is probably a hawk or eagle perched on a rock formation. The editing here is minimal, achieved simply by making a recession, a small indent where some darker colour was removed to provide the profile of the beak and the legs; it is visible in the reflected light of the front-lit photo and in the views across the surface from the top, bottom, or side views. This bottle might have been made at any time from the Qianlong into the mid nineteenth century.

The pecking-chick snuff bottle in figure II.10 falls into a similar category. Such bottles are very much one sided, the subject being confined to one main side and perhaps one or both narrow sides, with only occasional peripheral detail creeping onto the other main side. With this group, there is seldom any doubt as to which is the front and which the back of the bottle. In figure II.10, the side with the chick is clearly the main design, and the back, as so often, has simply been left unedited.

Here, as in the next bottle (fig. II.11), the hollowing of the inner shoulders is lazy, taking a sloping course rather than following the outer contour. It seems that, as the silhouette designs become more exciting in the nineteenth century, the detailing of the form receives less attention and care, particularly on the inner wall or around the foot, where imperfections are not conspicuous. Obviously the focus was the main design. Figure II.11 shows a bottle that is typical of these mid- to later-Qing delights: a gorgeous piece of stone has been edited to depict a bearded scholar holding a fly-whisk and beckoning a bat (deeply auspicious of course, as it indicates the arrival of good fortune); the shoulders, however, are not well hollowed, as one can see by the slight glow of the inner surface in the front-lit photographs.

The bottle in figure II.12 exhibits the same laziness in detailing, yet the deer and bat on the front main side are spectacularly depicted and detailed. This level of detailing, where incisions create hooves, eyes, muzzle, horns, and ear, is typical of the most intricate of these later-Qing chalcedony bottles, which are seldom anything less than exciting.

Most workshops that could produce fancy decorated bottles would also have produced plain ones in the same range of materials. Some plain nephrite bottles can be associated with the Zhiting school on the grounds of distinctive shapes and detailing, and the same is true of a large number of plain bottles or bottles decorated only with mask-and-ring handles that are almost certainly from the same workshop or workshops that produced bottles for members of the official classes. The bottles in figures II.13 - II.14 - II.15 are good examples of bottles that could have been carved in lapidary shops that served the bureaucracy but might just as well have been made in workshops serving only private patrons. (It is worth noting that in an age when wealthy individuals were able to obtain offices by purchase, the attempt to distinguish private patrons from office-holding ones becomes even more quixotic.)

Imperial bottles often bear inscriptions. Many of these were composed by the exuberantly prolific Qianlong emperor, who turned out poetry at an astonishing rate (one or two per day on average in his active years, for a total of approximately 43,800 poems). Many of them seem a bit strained, perhaps because he was already thinking about how to translate them into Manchu, perhaps because his editors had gotten hold of them and done what committees are famous for. (See Martin Gimm, Kaiser Qianlong (1711 – 1799) als Poet: Anmerkungen zu seinem schriftsterllerischen Werk [Stuttgart: F. Steiner, 1993] for a rich and multifaceted study of the emperor’s textual output.) As the educated elite began to exert its influence over the evolution of snuff-bottle style from the mid Qing onwards, however, inscriptions were taken from other sources (or, in cases where we cannot find a source, possibly composed afresh). Sometimes, as we suggested in discussing the Meixi-signed snuff bottle (fig. II.7), the motivation behind the inscription seems to have been to evoke the brushwork of a particular calligrapher. Copies of archaic inscriptions from ancient bronzes became popular with the publication of several books on those inscriptions in the nineteenth century.

The rectangular carnelian bottle of figure II.16 carries inscriptions from disparate non-imperial sources that today would be considered very obscure. We would not be surprised to find that snuff-bottle makers had little booklets similar to the anthologies one sees of couplets that are poetically and visually suitable for the use of calligraphers (and do not necessarily coincide with the poetic canon for the literary training of young memorizers); they may have even used the same anthologies. The couplet on one main side of the bottle in figure II.16 reads:

Unanxious he is, without a worldly care;
More carefree than the earthly immortals of old!

The reference in the original poem, perhaps surprisingly, is to the poet’s child, for this is the fifth couplet in a long and delightful poem titled Xiao er shi 小兒詩 (Poem on my little son), by a Late Tang figure named Lu Deyan 路德延. Lu was a child prodigy from a once-prominent family at the end of the ninth century who is said to have become an insufferable egomaniac, so insufferable that the military governor for whom he worked as a secretary had him sacked—literally: he was stuffed into a sack and dumped into the Yellow River. The poem we are considering has been made a part of this story, for the received narrative is that it was actually written to ridicule the military governor (apparently by comparing him to a little boy). However, the poem is praised elsewhere as a masterful evocation of childhood or even as a description of the child-like heart that Ming philosophers saw as the ideal frame of mind for living. This must be the interpretation accepted by our snuff-bottle maker nine-hundred-some years after Lu Deyuan. Clearly, he thought that the couplet was about an ideal child-like state; aside from the fact that the meaning of the poem was probably twisted by whoever recorded the narrative about Lu’s watery demise (whether to make Lu look even more provocative than he was or to make the military governor look ridiculous), a satirical couplet would be out of place on a snuff bottle and would probably not even be understood as satirical devoid of its context in the story.

The couplet on the other main side reads

Fragrant like cassia in the wind;
More aromatic than orchids bedecked with dew.

This is probably a revision of a couplet from a poem Xu Fei 許棐 wrote around 1235, Zeng Ye Jingyi 贈葉靖逸 (Presented to Ye Jingyi). In Xu's poem, before noting unashamedly that he is dependent on court officials for charity and on shopkeepers to print his poems for him, he celebrates the elegance of his small dwelling in the city, probably his Plum Lodge (Mei wu 梅屋):

聲華馥似當風桂, 氣味清於着露蘭
Its reputation, as fragrant as a cassia in the wind;
Its flavour, more pure than orchids bedecked with dew.

The words translated 'cassia' and 'orchid' can also refer to other plants, but they all have similar, positive connotations. In the context of the snuff bottle, the couplet is probably used to express an appreciation of the bottle's contents.

Undecorated stone bottles are usually impossible to identify as either imperial or not with utter conviction, although we may lean one way or the other based on certain subtle clues. The entirely plain and unusually shaped nephrite bottle in figure II.17 might have been made anywhere and at almost any time, although a very early date seems unlikely. The pebble material (possibly enhanced by staining) would have been popular throughout the Qing, and the shape and detailing tell us little.

The plain jadeite snuff bottle in figure II.18 is unlikely to predate the last decades of the eighteenth century, but once jadeite became popular as a stone after 1784, it would have continued in use throughout the dynasty and beyond, since there were still some die-hard snuffers up through the first two decades of the People’s Republic of China. A well-hollowed, plain, compressed-ovoid jadeite snuff bottle like this could have been made at any time during the nineteenth century, and we have little way to differentiate it from a late-Qianlong version.

The endless other plain stones that might have been used for private products are represented in the Marakovic collection by a soft-stone conglomerate (fig. II.19). This particular version is a limestone analogue to the quartz puddingstones of the bottle in figure I.187, but much softer. It is a common enough material, formed on ancient ocean-beds from various forms of calcium carbonate. It often includes the skeletal remains of various marine organisms—some seen here—to form the range of material known in the snuff-bottle world as ‘fossiliferous limestone’.

We encounter problems of original provenance and patronage with most other types of undecorated snuff bottle as well, including the organic range. There is a series of plain ivory bottles known, all dating from some time in the Qing dynasty. From their functional integrity, formal range, quality of workmanship and detailing, and sometimes extensive patination, we may safely assume a mid-Qing date for most of them, but again the occasional earlier and later example may exist among them. The bottle in figure II.20 represents the group, although they are sometimes a little less spherical in main profile and most have a protruding foot rim; the patina is typical of the better-used bottles where the ivory has turned a rich yellow-ochre colour from handling. Ivory patinates and wears easily, but when one finds a series of bottles with dark patination on many of them rather than on a single, exceptional case, it may more safely be taken as an indication of considerable age for the group as a whole. This bottle has a matching stopper that is extremely rare for the group. With their plain form and straight necks, we would expect most bottles in the group to have contrasting stoppers. Here a collar separates the matching ivory cabochon from the bottle, which makes it more effective. It may be an eccentric original or a match made later, but whenever it was added, it fits it perfectly in both form and colour.

The unusual plain meiping (‘prunus-blossom vase’) form of the ivory bottle in figure II.21 also probably points to the mid Qing, although the only thing that links this to the standard group is that it is plain ivory. What certainly appears to be the original stopper here breaks all the assumed modern-day rules for a well-matched stopper, as some original stoppers do. A sharply flared lip like this is normally calls for an inward-curving stopper rather than the relatively straight-sided one we see here. The integral ‘collar’ created by the incised line on the stopper would also strike modern collectors as a little redundant with the flared lip of the bottle. If this bottle did not have this apparently original stopper, we’d be inclined to match it up today with a stopper of the ‘official’s-hat’ shape. It should be remembered, however, that whatever our modern preferences for stoppers on a meiping-form snuff bottle may be, the original covers of the full-sized vases consisted of a flared, inverted ‘cup’ with a knob at its top that sat on the shoulders of the vase, completely covering the neck. We have even seen one miniature equivalent of this as an original stopper on a meiping-shaped snuff bottle. Other proven original stoppers often seem quite inappropriate to the modern eye, including one series of mid-Qing amber bottles that have, when they survive, outrageous over-the-top and over-sized stoppers in matching material heavily carved with further decoration.

The bottle in figure II.22 represents a probable mid- to late-Qing group of cheaply produced bamboo snuff bottles for a wide market. Made from a short inter-nodal segment of the culm, where only the soft pith had to be removed from the natural container, these bottles were often carved in the form of seed pods or fruit – here it is a peach. This is one of the fatter versions known, but otherwise it represents the typical carving of the material, which is very workmanlike. This level of colouring and patination is relatively normal and suggests considerable age, so some of these bamboo snuff bottles may date back to the eighteenth century; the group as a whole probably spanned the second half of the Qing.

Any workshop that made carved bamboo bottles of this sort, probably in the south of China, would have made plain ones even more easily. The bottle in figure II.23 represents the simplest type: the construction concept is the same, undisguised by any carved design.

The three snuff bottles in figures II.24 - II.25 - II.26 are carved from amber, which was prized both at court and on the open market. The flattened form and subtly flared neck of the bottle in figure II.24 is found, as we have seen, on imperial bottles, but this would not preclude its use beyond the walls of the Forbidden City. The bottle in figure II.25, on which is engraved a scene of a scholar reclining against a pine tree and gazing up at the crescent moon (which, in a strange moment of artistic licence, is threaded by a wisp of cloud) might have appealed to a snuffer anywhere in the empire; conversely, the bottle in figure II.26, with its mask-and-ring handles and integral snuff dishes, which are a standard imperial feature, would more likely be an imperial product. However, mask-and-ring handles as an imperial fashion would certainly have seeped into northern production generally, and we know that they found their way south from time to time, since the occasional Suzhou carving has them. In sum, none of these three bottles can be declared definitively imperial or non-imperial.

It seems sensible to assume that the carving of some materials remained generally local to their sources of supply, even if those materials were also traded to other centres. Coconut-shell carvings, for instance, may have been more frequently made in the south, where coconut palms grow (although we think most of the coconut-shell snuff bottles with inscriptions copied from ancient bronzes were carved in the Suzhou area). The best-known and largest group of mother-of-pearl snuff bottles may also have been carved in the south, where the material would have been more readily available at local ports, including Guangzhou, the most likely place for them to have been carved (the squirrel-and-grape snuff bottle in figure II.27 is an example). However, mother-of-pearl bottles of this type clearly found their way north, for they appear in the imperial collection. As we know from Duanstone snuff bottles from Guangdong province (see figs. I.204 and I.205), the court ordered from various Guangzhou workshops through the local customs office; the court also received large quantities of tribute from the provinces. Subject matter, symbolism, and style would have been affected when a snuff bottle was made with the court or a particular Beijing patron in mind.

One of the unquestioned dating landmarks of non-imperial production is found in the Lingnan school of inside painting, where a small group of southern artists produced some of the earlier masterpieces of the genre. Lingnan is the old name for what is, roughly speaking, the province of Guangdong today, with Guangzhou as its main administrative and commercial centre. Dated examples suggest the Lingnan school of inside painting flourished briefly in the first three decades of the nineteenth century, apparently mainly under the influence of its most prolific artist, a known Guangdong scholar-painter by the name of Gan Xuanwen 甘烜文, from whom at least one painting has survived.

The bottle in figure II.28, dated 1814, is signed by Gan Xuanwen and is a typical painting in his signature bulging-rectangular crystal bottle. The bottle in figure II.29 is unquestionably by him, as well, although it is unsigned. It has the distinction of being in studio condition. The Lingnan bottles were obviously made to be used, and most other examples are either worn or, even if in good condition, stained to some extent inside by snuff. This one has apparently never been used. We suspect it may have been acquired by a foreigner at the port of Guangzhou and taken back to Europe, where it was displayed in a cabinet as a curiosity. We know that inside-painted bottles were already in France in the early nineteenth century, and the earliest examples would have been an obvious curio to bring back from East to West to show the devilish cunning of a strange and distant people.

The text on the bottle in figure II.28 is a letter by Wang Xizhi 王羲之, and Gan is very successful in imitating the style of the great master. The letter, written in the middle of the fourth century from the capital at modern Nanjing to a relative by marriage in Chengdu, reads as follows:

去夏得足下致邛竹杖,皆至。此士人多有尊老者,皆即分布, 令知足下遠惠之至。

Last summer I received the walking sticks made from the bamboo of Qiong that Your Honour sent; all were superb.
The gentlemen here are generally respectful of the aged; I quickly gave them out, thereby making known the excellence of Your Honour’s kindness from afar.

Southwest of Chengdu was a region named Qiong, where prized bamboo walking sticks were made by the indigenous people for sale to the Chinese. It seems that Wang distributed them to his friends so that they could present them to their aged parents and spread awareness of the relative’s generosity.

The same text as copied by Gan Xuanwen appears on no. 455 in Moss, Graham, and Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, iv: Inside Painted, although it is not identified as such. No. 458 there gives us another draft-script fragment from Wang Xizhi, the Yuanhuan tie 遠宦帖; no. 460 reproduces a portion of Wang’s Shudu tie 蜀都帖; and no. 463 features his Yimin tie 逸民帖. (Names of such calligraphy specimens are generally not translated, as they are simply identifying tags, not the titles given them by their creators; often they are fragments of letters.) Clearly, Gan Xuanwen specialized in the draft calligraphy of Wang Xizhi, though he also wrote regular- and clerical-script inscriptions in his snuff bottles.

The narrow sides of the bottle in figure II.29 have two lines from a famous essay by Kong Zhigui 孔稚珪 (447–501), the Beishan yiwen 北山移文 (‘Proclamation on North Mountain’), which ridicules those who withdraw into reclusion solely to gain a reputation for integrity that will make them attractive candidates for recruitment by the rich and powerful. The lines on this snuff bottle characterise the man who withdraws from society with sincere motives:

Measured against the white snow, he matches its purity;
Pushing in among the blue clouds, he rises straight up.

Now, ‘blue clouds’ refers to grey clouds and clouds high in the blue sky but also to lofty positions in government, and Kong Zhigui’s lines are often cited to explain the phrase qingyun zhishang 青雲直上, ‘rising straight to the blue clouds’, which denotes rapid worldly success. Thus, we really don’t know whether Gan Xuanwen intended this bottle to be given to someone as a wish for rapid promotion or, given the idyllic scene of scholars in the landscape on one main side and the original sense of the lines in context, as a token of his admiration for someone with the unsullied character of the true recluse.

The bottle in figure II.30 is also probably by Gan, although it is not his signature style of bottle. These artists were scholars who might be given a blank crystal bottle by a friend or acquaintance and asked to paint it. The style is closer to Gan’s than anyone else’s we can so far identify, although he was not the only scholar-painter who took up the art of inside painting. Another was Chen Quan 陳銓 (see A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, iv: Inside Painted,no. 464; Bonhams Hong Kong, 23 November 2010, lot 70), who leaves far fewer surviving works to guide us in discerning his style.

Yixing 宜興, located on the western shore of Lake Tai, was famous already in the late Ming for its ‘purple sand’ (zisha 紫砂) pottery tea pots. At some time during the Qianlong era, the potteries in the area began to make snuff bottles, but the majority of fine Yixing snuff bottles extant today were made between about 1780 and the mid nineteenth century. We recognize some enamelled Yixing bottles, including the famous imperial gilt-enamelled example from the Bloch collection dated 1763 (no. 1447; Bonhams Hong Kong, 28 May 2010, lot 90), as dating from the Qianlong reign, with some polychrome enamelled wares for a non-imperial market probably from the second half of the reign. We believe that some of the slip-decorated wares date from the late Qianlong (there are reign-marked imperial teapots in this style still in the imperial collection), and probably some plain wares as well, although it is more difficult to date them precisely. The Yixing potteries were primarily commercial potteries, producing everything from flower pots to superbly crafted wares for the literati, so as long as demand existed for snuff bottles, they would be produced.

One example without enamel or slip decoration is the bottle in figure II.31, signed by Guo Yunshan 郭雲山, a potter from whom we have several known examples, some of which are of similar form.

The bottle in figure II.32 represents slip-decorated Yixing wares. It is in a distinctive artistic style that appears on a range of Yixing snuff bottles that probably date from the Qianlong era to the early Daoguang. Examples of this style in the Bloch collection bear cyclical dates that we interpret as 1783 and 1822. Like the Marakovic bottle, they all have variations on a single landscape formula in which there are trees and rocks in the lower left, a body of water in the middle, and a mountain or cliff on the other side of the water, with a sun or moon overhead; in the lower centre is a human element: a fisherman, a simple pavilion, both of these, or two conversing figures. One bottle from the same workshops has an enamelled lotus design on the opposite main side (no. 1451 in the Bloch collection; Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013, lot 144). The Marakovic example is unusual in being on a dark greyish brown clay, whereas most are on the usual range of reddish to purplish-brown clay. The landscape scene and the fisherman are typical: the angler’s head and a little bun at the back of his head are two dots of slip floating just above his shoulders; the foliage is expressed by a series of small dots or dabs of slip. The single dot representing the sun or moon on most of the landscapes by the ‘Slip Master’ (to use the personification that was invented for the workshop or workshops in the Bloch catalogue) has multiplied to eight small blobs on the Marakovic bottle, perhaps representing birds.

Identifiable non-imperial ceramic snuff bottles prior to the end of the eighteenth century are few and far between, but by the early nineteenth century we have more to choose from. Vast quantities of ceramics were produced at Jingdezhen when snuffing had become a nationwide phenomenon, production growing massively with the increased demand for relatively cheap, mass-produced containers for snuff. Nothing in the Marakovic collection suggests a firm Qianlong date, although the rising tide of private production must have begun in the Qianlong era, but there are three bottles where an early-nineteenth-century date is likely.

The first is signed by an enameller who apparently began his career working at the imperial kilns of the Jiaqing emperor, but then went private and began to sign with the name Maochun 茂春 (fig. II.33). Maochun usually signed in regular script, although seal-script variants are known. He primarily did enamelled bottles in a distinctive style and palette, but there are two blue-and-white versions known. He tended to repeat a few popular compositions, the present subject amongst them. It is probably based on the Ming-dynasty short story Guanyuan sou wanfeng xiannü 灌園叟晚逢仙女 (An Old Gardener Meets Immortal Ladies Late in Life), which was included in more than one anthology that might have been known to the artist. Rather than summarize the plot, let us just say that if you ever have a chance to revive an apparently dead peony, do it: you’ll have a powerful supernatural ally in the battle against cruelty to flowers.

The second and third are also signed by the artists, but they are carved porcelain (figs. II.34 and II.35). The earliest known dated example by any of these potters is from 1819, but it is already an accomplished masterpiece presupposing an earlier evolution. We assume that the style evolved from the popular moulded porcelains of the late Qianlong and Jiaqing eras, which seem to have gone out of style just as these carved porcelains were coming into fashion.

Wang Bingrong 王炳榮 (fig. II.34) is among the earlier artists, although he may have had sons who worked under his name, perhaps giving his wares unusual longevity. The Daoguang reign is the most likely time frame for the majority of his finest works. He tended to repeat subjects, most notably in a series of dragon bottles (often reticulated) that were apparently made for the court, to judge by the fact that many of them are decorated with five-clawed dragons and have imperial-yellow glazes (or enamels).

Some of this group, however, have four-clawed beasts, such as in figure II.34a, with its non-imperial caramel-coloured glaze. We know the court produced four-clawed beasts to distribute to the ennobled; even if this is a private product, it is likely to have been made for someone of exalted status.

Wang Bingrong tended not to repeat compositions, and his masterly series of cranes in pine trees all differ significantly. (Even his two main repeated dragon compositions, presumably produced in sets for the court, are a little different each time.) This Marakovic crane-and-pine bottle shows a truncated signature. Wang’s standard signature was Wang Bingrong zuo (Made by Wang Bingrong) engraved in a single line of seal script on a flat oval foot, but on the present example (and on one other recorded version of the same subject with a different composition), he uses simply ‘Bingrong’ in intaglio.

The carved dragon bottle in figure II.35 is by another of the finest artists, Li Yucheng 李裕成, from whom far fewer works have survived. This is one of several cases in which an artist’s signature appears even on a bottle apparently (to judge by the five-clawed dragon) carved for the court.

Carved porcelain represents one of several major dynamic and on-going evolutions in the snuff bottle arts during the late Qing. It was only in the last years of the dynasty that the art declined, perhaps having been dealt a decisive blow by the Taiping turmoil of the mid 1850s to 1860s. Fine carving was still being produced in the mid to late nineteenth century, however, and figure II.35a represents a group of anonymous porcelain bottles from the late Qing that are still of high quality. They were probably inspired by the signed carved porcelain bottles from earlier decades.

Glass, as usual, presents many problems. There are some indications in the literature of private production at Guangzhou as early as the beginning of the eighteenth century; it was brittle and perhaps mainly functional rather than artistic. There are also indications of private glass production of either cameo overlays or blanks for cameo overlays in Beijing by three families called Xin 辛, Yuan 袁, and Le 勒. Their products are generally referred to as pi 坯, as in ‘pi from the House of Xin’; pi has various meanings derived from the basic sense of something that is formed but not completed, like an unfired brick or piece of pottery, so we could reasonably conclude that these glassworks made the blanks for overlay carving by lapidary workshops. Indeed, descriptions of them refer mainly to their colours.

However, snuff bottles from the Yuan glassworks were also said to be ‘heavy in body yet thin walled’ (tizhong er tai bao 體重而胎薄), a description that probably refers to thin-walled bottles but with substantial relief. This suggests that particular styles of carving were associated with these three glassworks, in addition to certain combinations of colours and types of glass.

There is a story in which the Guangxu emperor, having fled to Xi’an to escape the European assault on Beijing in 1900, complains that he has left his snuff bottles behind, whereupon the powerful Ronglu 榮祿 (1836 – 1903) whips out two snuff bottles to present to him. (The story does not use Ronglu’s name but refers to him by an informal Qing term for grand secretary and identifies him as of the Gualgiya clan; Ronglu, a Gualgiya, was made grand secretary after returning to Beijing in 1902, so we are probably safe in saying Ronglu is the person in question. The Empress Dowager used him as ‘an obedient tool’, in the words of his biographer in Hummel, Eminent Chinese.) The emperor delightedly asks, ‘Aren’t these liao [glass] snuff bottles from the Beijing House of Xin?’ Ronglu compliments the emperor on his discerning eye and confirms that they are indeed Xin bottles for which he had paid a great price in the marketplace in Beijing. Whether or not anecdotes about Ronglu and other controversial political figures from that turbulent era are legend or history does not concern us here: what we learn from this narrative is that its recorder and his audience knew (or found it believable) that House of Xin snuff bottles 1) were used by the emperor and powerful officials but came from the private sector, 2) were expensive, and 3) were recognisable to the connoisseur. For the last to be true, both the material and its treatment by the carver must have been distinctive, suggesting that each house controlled the artistic process from the production of the glass to the final product.

Such glimpses into private glassmaking during the early or mid Qing are tantalizing, but our ability to identify snuff bottles from the various centres and glassworks is pretty much limited to a series of wares made in Yangzhou. The Yangzhou output belonged certainly to the second half of the nineteenth century but may have begun earlier, perhaps even as early as the late eighteenth century. As usual for the period, we cannot be sure in every case whether a snuff bottle is imperial or non-imperial. If imperial glass production was responsible for most of the high-quality output from 1696 into the mid Qing, then several of the snuff bottles we include here may be imperial products. If the high-end production of glass snuff bottles was widespread by the end of the eighteenth century, then a good deal of what we included under our discussion of the imperial phase may have been produced for a non-imperial market.

There is an obvious formal relationship between the bottle in figure II.36 and the nephrite bottle in figure II.17. The white glass version is carved from a single block, using the same lapidary techniques, and the two bottles may have been carved in the same lapidary workshop.

That fact does not necessarily point to imperial sponsorship, even though we know that imperial workshops did carve snuff bottles from solid blocks of glass. At Yangzhou in the middle of the Ming dynasty, incredibly complex embellished wares were produced to the highest of standards for private patrons. While any lapidary workshop might specialize in hardstones, as apparently those at Suzhou did, others may have been open to carving any of the range of harder materials appropriate to the lapidary method. This seems to have been the case in Guangzhou. When applied to only two materials, then, such crossovers are really of no help in distinguishing imperial and private lapidary work.

The bottle in figure II.37 might have been made anywhere with a glass-blowing facility and a polishing workshop. The facts that ruby-red glass was an imperial colour at the outset and that this colour combination was a staple of the imperial cameo overlays are insufficient to make us classify this snuff bottle as imperial. By the nineteenth century, ruby red was being freely used elsewhere, including at Yangzhou; the secret of making the colour had obviously left the palace long before.

Many of the next few bottles in carved monochrome glass, and even some of the cameo overlays that follow, are quite possibly imperial bottles. Rather than using them to bloat our description of the imperial phase with more examples of the types we presented there, we include them here to reiterate the point that separating imperial from non-imperial wares in certain areas is a leap in the dark. Even if such wares were typically imperial, the strength of imperial influence in the snuff bottle arts during the mid Qing encouraged the adoption of imperial styles, materials, and detailing to be produced for a non-imperial market. The glass shown in figure II.38 comes from a range of glass similar to that of the bottles in figures I.147 and I.150, which had imperial decorative touches. It is similarly carved from a solid block.

The bottle in figure II.39 belongs to a small and distinctive group of excellent glass copies of jadeite from the mid-Qing period. The material they imitate cannot have been popular at court until the last couple of decades of the eighteenth century, so we can date them with some certainty to no earlier than the mid Qing, and we assume that they would have been most enthusiastically received not long after the original material became immensely popular. The mask handles might indicate an imperial product, or perhaps just a northern one. Others are known that are plain, although none can be definitely attributed to the court, even if that may be a likely source for some, if not all.

The unusual cabbage-form snuff bottle in figure II.40 has perhaps an equal claim to an imperial source, since we know the same form appears in sandwiched pink glass that can be tentatively attributed to the court. But the various puns that associate cabbage with integrity or wealth and make it a popular motif have no particular imperial connotation.

The unusual pink-coloured glass bottle with egrets and lotus in figure II.41 has mask-and-ring handles and is similar in style to the imperial yellow example in figure I.265. While likely to be an imperial bottle, it could also be a privately produced northern bottle for a broader market. The bottle in figure II.42 fits into the same category: its colour, design, and style are all the sort of thing one would expect of the court, but there is no specific indication that it might not be a private equivalent. Like snuff itself, the orchids and the inscription are designed to appeal to an elite patron, but whether that was an emperor, a salt merchant, or a provincial governor we cannot tell. We are reminded of Ronglu and his House of Xin bottles from the Beijing marketplace as a good example of a private glassmaker serving both imperial and non-imperial snuffers with prestigious products.

The bottle in figure II.43, which is inscribed with a cyclical date that probably corresponds to 1834, seems designed to capitalise on a widespread interest in ancient inscriptions that accompanied the publication of several important collections of rubbings and copies of such inscriptions around the turn of the nineteenth century. Although it has mask-and-ring handles, they are stretched to cover the full height of the body of the bottle, with an elaborate addition above the forehead of the mask that may be derived from the ears of ancient animal-form bronzes. The inscription is from a Han dynasty lamp, the Jianzhao yingzu deng 建昭雁足鐙 (Goose-leg lamp of the Jianzhao era). Although several examples of this lamp were extant in the Qing (and more have been excavated since then), it is likely that the carver of this bottle found his model in the ninth juan of the 1804 edition of the Jigu zhai zhong ding yiqi kuanshi 積古齋鐘鼎彝器款識 (Inscriptions on bells, tripods, and other ritual vessels from the Jigu zhai), by the Yangzhou scholar Ruan Yuan 阮元 (1754 – 1879). There was also an 1842 edition; that would push the date of the snuff bottle to 1894, a bit late but not impossible. The lamp had three inscriptions; the bottle reproduces the two shorter ones. They would not have been easily intelligible to the average snuffing scholar unless he had the benefit of Ruan Yuan’s commentary to explain various Han-dynasty institutions, but they might have stimulated enjoyable conversations in which the owner and his friends convinced themselves that they had made sense of them. On the right side of the main side with the inscriptions is a third inscription, Chang yi sun 長宜孫 (‘May it forever benefit the descendants’), not from the lamp but seen on many Han-dynasty articles and readily intelligible to the literate snuffer. The scroll format of the panel frames on the two main sides shows that the designer of the bottle was making no attempt to create the feel of a rubbing from an ancient bronze here, as we see in some coconut-shell snuff bottles with similar motifs; rather, he just wanted to give the air of elegance and culture. The signature represented here in seals on the pictorial side of the bottle, Xiaoshan 小山, appears on one coconut-shell bottle (Hugh Moss and Stuart Sargent, ‘Coconut-shell Snuff Bottles, Part 1, JICSBS, Autumn 2013, 8, fig. 9), but that bottle is undated and does not help us identify the artist.

With the bottle in figure II.44, we return to the familiar refrain: a style that could be imperial or non-imperial. Fish-form bottles were popular at court; in combination with the style and the ruby-red glass, this would allow an imperial attribution, but the fish was generally auspicious in ways that would appeal to aspiring civil-service candidates and profit-minded merchants alike (not that the two classes were mutually exclusive in the Qing).

The overlay bottles in figures II.45 - II.46 - II.47 - II.48 - II.49 - II.50 are all mid-Qing versions of types that certainly originated at court, but there are no specific indications in the subject matter of a specific imperial connection. By the late Qianlong, cameo overlays similar to court wares were being produced elsewhere for a private market. The bottle in figure II.45 may be part of that group, as it closely follows known imperial types of the Qianlong era, but if high-quality overlay continued privately in the north as the imperial lapidaries carving glass lost artistic momentum, such a bottle as this may represent an excellent mid-Qing private response to imperial bottles.

The bottle in figure II.46 is a possible later imperial bottle, but by the nineteenth century we cannot take mask-and-ring handles to be indications of imperial origin, or even of northern provenance; this bottle could have been made anywhere for either audience.

Figure II.47 shows a bottle that is stylistically a little later, perhaps; it may be either a courtly or a private bottle from the first half of the nineteenth century. The figure writing on the banana leaf may be Huai Su 懷素, the famous eighth-century calligrapher who was too poor to afford paper and therefore trained by writing on banana leaves. However, the act was also the sort of elegant pastime any scholar might pretend to pursue: Huai Su’s slightly younger contemporary Wei Yingwu 韋應物 wrote, 盡日高齋無一事,芭蕉葉上獨題詩 ‘All day in my lofty studio, no affairs to trouble me; | upon a banana leaf I inscribe a poem in solitude’. And the dramatist Li Yu 李漁 (1611–1680) wrote an essay on the banana in which he pointed out the fact that banana leaves as stationery had the advantage of being reusable; in fact, sometimes Heaven did him the service of washing off the old poems with rain.

Fig II.48 is of a standard northern type from the mid Qing, with a standard symbolic design – one often used at court no doubt, but perhaps not exclusively, while the bottles in figures II.49 and II.50 form part of a large mid-Qing series decorated with the famous Nine Tripods. These vessels were cast in legendary antiquity by the sage emperor Yu, using bronze contributed by each of the nine provinces into which he had divided his realm; they therefore represented unification and sovereignty, both of which were so weak thousands of years later, in nineteenth-century China. If these bottles are not imperial, they would at least have appealed to a wide range of people who were anxious about the survival of the Qing dynasty. (The nine tripods are also associated with the preparation of long-life elixirs by the Yellow Emperor and with credibility, as in the phrase Yi yan jiuding 一言九鼎, ‘One word [has the weight of] the Nine Tripods’. But the variety of shapes shown on these bottles seems to fit the legend of Yu better.)

Perhaps the most likely non-imperial overlay in the group is the bottle in figure II.51, which, with its sloppy colour separation around the foot and its different style, seems to be from the nineteenth century, probably the first half. Several cinnabar-red overlay bottles can be attributed to the same workshops; certain other overlay combinations exist in the same style, as well. This bottle features two luohan 羅漢, one on each side. A luohan (Sanskrit: arhat) is an enlightened person who has born witness to the truths of Buddhism and entered immortality; there are sets of sixteen, eighteen, and five hundred. The luohan with the deer (seen here on one side) is the first in most lists of the eighteen luohan; the luohan with the tiger (on the other side) is the last, having been added (with number seventeen, the dragon-tamer) by the Qianlong emperor to the traditional roster of sixteen luohan.

The multi-colour overlay bottle in figure II.52 may be a later continuation of the imperial type or a private product emulating the imperial tradition, but stylistically it dates from the mid Qing. The main-side plants have not only one peony-like blossom but also a four-petal blossom that is probably a begonia (qiuhaitang 秋海棠) and, at the top, a long seed pod or bud composed of four globs of glass. Peony seed pods are long, but grow in spreading clusters, which we don’t see here, and the flower buds are spherical. We are reminded that botanical accuracy is not required in the decorative arts, but there is added mystery in the question of why only one narrow-side flower, possibly an aster, differs from all the others. This bottle is all about symmetry, with the two main sides virtually identical in pattern and the two narrow sides mirror images of each other—except in the blossoms and minor variations in the rocks.

The last and one of the most inspiring glass-carving evolutions of the Qing dynasty took place in Yangzhou with a private glassworks that produced wares in the second half of the Qing dynasty. We now know that many of their masterpieces were made in the late nineteenth century under the patronage of two prominent Yangzhou brothers, Li Peizhen 李培楨 (Weizhi 維之) and Li Peisong 李培松 (Yunting 均亭/韵亭). Their lives are relatively well documented, enabling us to date the bottles associated with them to 1877 – 1881. (For details, see Hugh Moss and Stuart Sargent, ‘The World in a Bottle in the World at the End of the Qing Empire. Part 2: Yangzhou Overlay Glass’, JICSBS, Spring 2011, 25 – 29). We are not yet sure when the Yangzhou glassworks began, and it remains a possibility that the style was inspired by imperial orders to a private workshop in the late Qianlong period, as were Yangzhou enamels on glass. The later wares made for the Li brothers are among the masterpieces. One bottle in the Marakovic collection (fig. II.53) exemplifies the extraordinary technical and artistic quality of the school, with its delightful low-relief, painterly scene entitled in scholarly seal script, 風雨歸舟 Fengyu guizhou (‘Returning boat in the wind and rain’). (The common use of seal script on the Yangzhou bottles inspired us to refer to the group at one time as the ‘seal school’; later, before we knew who Li Peisong was and how he read the characters of his courtesy name, we called it the ‘Li Junting school’.) These genre scenes, reflecting waterside life in the Jiangnan region, in which Yangzhou was included, are standard for the school, although in line with any school where high art rules, at the top level they were never repeated as compositions. Strangely, although blue is one of the standard overlay colours at Beijing, at Yangzhou it is found less often.

The oddest overlay bottle in the Marakovic collection barely qualifies as one at all (fig. II.54). It comes close to being a weird enamel-on-glass bottle of some kind. Overlay glass involves layers of coloured glass, all responding to similar high-temperature ranges in the furnace; with enamelling on glass, a high-temperature glass ground is made, powdered glass mixed with oils or water to make it liquid and paintable is added to its surface, usually with a brush, and the painted design is fired onto the glass ground at a lower temperature through the use of various fluxes. Here, it appears that molten threads and blobs of glass have been added to the surface. The bottle is one of a small group of similar wares that seem to be from the mid Qing and were perhaps a private glassmaker’s experiment, an attempt at achieving the effect of overlay or enamelling without developing the necessary sophistication or skills.

One example among the strong assemblage of cloisonné bottles in the Marakovic collection, the snuff pot shown in figure II.55, can be dated to the first half of the nineteenth century. It is very unlikely to be a palace product; as we have noted above, the enamel workshop at court was closed in late 1789, probably reflecting both the lack of demand for new cloisonné wares (breakage of old ones being minimal) and the fact that large quantities of high-quality cloisonné were being produced for the court at Guangzhou; Jiujiang soon became a centre of production, as well, and there were apparently a number of private workshops at the capital. This shift in production out of the palace workshops preceded the beginning of the fashion for snuff pots, the dating range of which can be traced by a series of porcelain examples that cannot predate the late Jiaqing era and appear to be predominantly from the Daoguang. The wide mouth and early style of decoration and workmanship of this snuff pot suggest a likely date in the first half of the nineteenth century. Based on its somewhat similar style and colour range, the snuff bottle in figure II.56 is also a likely private product of the same period.

As a rule, cloisonné enamel bottles have polychrome designs on coloured grounds, but there are a few rare examples in blue-and-white from the mid-Qing period. The landscape panels on the snuff bottle in figure II.57 allude to blue-and-white porcelain, but an even more faithful reflection of a porcelain design is seen in figure II.58. It resembles a blue-and-white cloisonné that was in the Bloch collection (where it was no. 1119; Bonhams Hong Kong, 23 November 2010, lot 72). The Bloch bottle is not a faithful equivalent of blue-and-white porcelain, as it uses two different blues, one paler and one darker. The sparser design of the Marakovic example is in a single blue that recalls more directly the cobalt blue of blue-and-white porcelain.

The bottle in figure II.59 is probably the latest of this small group of cloisonné bottles; it dates perhaps from the mid nineteenth century. The Indian-lotus motif is typical of a wide range of imperial decoration from the earlier Qing, but by this time, even if this bottle was made for the court, it was made in a private facility.