Christie's offered Chinese snuff bottles from a distinguished American collection in Hong Kong last night (October 7), with a stunning double-gourd example selling well.
The sale was met with strong bids, as Chinese collectors repatriated their country's cultural heritage. The top lot, a double-gourd snuff bottle from the Qianlong period (1711-1799) sold for $813,765 - a 79.4% increase on its $453,499 top estimate.
The snuff bottle was produced in Jingdezhen, the capital of Chinese porcelain in China for more than 1,700 years. It is decorated with gourds growing on a vine and marked with the seal of the Qianlong emperor, suggesting it was produced for his court.
The Qianlong period is known for its flourishing of the arts, and snuff bottles from this period prevailed in the sale. Snuff became fashionable among China's elite after smoking was outlawed, with snuff believed to be a remedy for common ailments.
Second highest bids went to a famille-rose double-gourd snuff bottle that was made at the palace workshops in Beijing under the Qianlong emperor between 1736-1760. It sold for $658,268.
Snuff bottles are typically small enough to fit into the palm of a hand, and the stopper is usually equipped with a small spoon for the contents. At first functional, they later became status symbols for the wealthy members of society.
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