One of the set, from the Qing court collection, is still preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Snuff Bottles, Hong Kong, 2003, p. 201, no. 311. Those dispersed outside of the Imperial collection include one in the British Museum, on loan from the Sir Percival David Foundation, illustrated in Regina Krahl and Jessica Harrison-Hall, Chinese Ceramics. Highlights from the Sir Percival David Collection, London, 2009, p. 17, fig. 9; another sold at Christie’s New York, 2nd December 1993, lot 466, now in the collection of Denis Low, illustrated by Denis S.K. Low, More Treasures from the Sanctum of Enlightened Respect, Hong Kong, 2002, p. 174, no. 160; and a pair originally in the J and J Collection, one sold most recently at Bonhams Hong Kong, 23rd November 2010, lot 121, from the Mary and George Bloch Collection, which holds the current record price for any porcelain snuff bottle; and another most recently at Christie’s Hong Kong, 7th October 2014, lot 32, from a private American collection.
The same four-character seal mark, inscribed in black enamel within a square, can be seen on a yellow-ground famille-rose porcelain snuff bottle, also from the Qing court collection and still in Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures, op.cit., p. 194, no. 304, and on a blue-ground famille-rose porcelain snuff bottle, enamelled with a landscape scene and Imperial poem, sold in these rooms, 24th November 2014, lot 88, from the Mary and George Bloch Collection.
Peter Y.K. Lam expounds in ‘Imperial Famille Rose Decorated Snuff Bottles of the Qianlong Period in Chinese Collections’, Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, Autumn 2003, p. 6, that in the 12th month of the year corresponding to 1758, the Qianlong Emperor ordered that three snuff bottles be sent to Jingdezhen as models to produce ‘nine gourd-shaped snuff bottles, nine kidney-shaped snuff bottles and six vase-shaped snuff bottles’. It is possible that the set to which the current example belongs is one of these ‘nine gourd-shaped’ bottles, demonstrating the Qianlong Emperor’s exacting demands and stringent overview of the manufacture process of snuff bottles created under his personal attention.
Another entry in the Neiwufu records referring to a porcelain double-gourd snuff bottle with gilt stopper may also relate to one of this set. It states that on the 30th day of the 9th month of the 46th year, a cinnabar lacquer tiered case was manufactured to store snuff bottles. The description of the bottles placed inside on the 3rd day of the 10th month of the same year includes detailed descriptions of 'a falangcai gourd-shaped snuff bottle with a coral stopper, a porcelain gourd-shaped snuff bottle with a gilt stopper, an agate "melon" snuff bottle with stopper, and a white jade "twin mythical beast" snuff bottle with stopper'.
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