Nephrite of pebble material; with a narrow mouth and well hollowed, carved with two figures seated facing each other in conversation beneath a pine tree, the scene framed by rocks, the shoulder hollowed to depict a cave nestling within the crags.
Y.F. Yang & Co, Hong Kong (1977)
The Golden Autumn Collection of Chinese Snuff Bottles by Robert Kleiner, no.59
Nephrite pebbles have been revered by Chinese connoisseurs for centuries and before deposits of quarried Jade became available in the sixteenth century and particularly before the conquest of Xinjiang in 1759, pebbles washed down in the White Jade and Black Jade rivers flowing from Kunlun were the principal source.
Pebbles make perfect snuff bottles. They are the right size and centuries of exposure to flowing water have smoothed the rough edges and produced undulations which fit snugly into the hand. The Qianlong Emperor (1736-1795), the ultimate jade collector, had a jade pebble inscribed Taishanghuangdi di bao, ‘Treasure of Tashanghuangdi’, the title he took when he abdicated in 1795.
This bottle provides contrasting sides. On one side the skin has been removed and a scene of scholars seated beneath trees has been carved, the type of tranquil setting that the hard-worked literati class in Beijing eternally hankered after. The reverse of the bottle has been left entirely uncarved and in its natural state but the stroke of genius in the entire conception of the bottle is found within the natural russet patch on one shoulder within which a cave has been carefully fashioned, to create an entire hidden world.