Height: 2 3/4 inches, 7.1 cm (without stopper)

Glass five-colour overlay snuff bottle

China, Qing dynasty, 1750-1820

A glass five-colour overlay snuff bottle of oval form standing on a short foot, the exterior decorated with five goldfishes, each carefully applied in green, red, yellow, purple and blue on the colourless, bubble-suffused glass bottle. A green wave border encircles the foot. Rose quartz stopper.

During the Qing dynasty, snuff bottles were produced in a wide variety of materials, among which glass was particularly appreciated. Glass manufacturing centres were located in Suzhou, Guangzhou, Beijing and, from the mid-Qing, Yangzhou.[1]  Glass snuff bottles decorated in overlay often depict auspicious symbols, as illustrated by the present example. The characters for goldfish jinyu are homophones to those for gold jin and jade yu. Together with the pond shuitang, symbolised by the waves, they form a rebus for ‘[may] the hall [in your house] be filled with gold and jade.’ Five colour overlay snuff bottles are relatively rare. Compare a glass snuff bottle with goldfishes in multi-colour overlay, dated to 1760-1830, illustrated in A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles.[2]

Formerly in the White Orchid Collection, 1984

  1. Moss, H. et al. A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles: The Mary and George Bloch Collection, vol. 5 part 1 Glass, Hong Kong 2002, pp 25-26
  2. Moss, H. et al., op. cit., vol. 5 part 3 Glass, Hong Kong 2002, pl. 992, pp 656-657