M3641

Snuff bottle of flattened, rounded, rectangular form, carved on one side in low relief with branches of blossoming prunus and buds issuing from pierced rockwork, beside a four-character relief inscription, jing guan shang wan, ‘Peacefully observing and enjoying’, with cylindrical neck and oval footrim, the stone pure white.

2 ¾ inches, 7 cm high, without stopper.

Qianlong, 1736-1795.

• From the personal collection of Edward T. Chow (1910-1980), and thence by direct descent.

• A related snuff bottle, carved on one side with a branch of prunus, the reverse with a poem, formerly in the collections of Albert Pyke and Elizabeth & Ladislas Kardos, is illustrated by Hugh Moss, Victor Graham and Ka Bo Tsang in The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle, The J & J Collection, Volume I, no. 28, p. 75, where the authors note, ‘This understated and superbly carved white jade snuff bottle represents the earlier of two distinct styles sensibly attributed to Suzhou’; another is illustrated by Bob C. Stevens in The Collector’s Book of Snuff Bottles, no. 355, pp. 112/3; another, carved on each side with prunus, is illustrated by Robert Kleiner in Chinese Snuff Bottles, The White Wings Collection, no. 17, pp. 34/5, where the author also notes, ‘This exquisite small bottle is one of the great masterpieces of the genre. It belongs to the early phase of carving from Suzhou.’

• The prunus blossom, meihua, is emblematic of perseverance and purity. It is a welcome sight in winter and a symbol for vigorous old age. As the first flower to bloom each year, it represents renewal and heralds the spring. The five petals represent the five blessings and form the rebus, meikai wufu, ‘May the blossoms bring you the five blessings.’

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