An imperial yellow glass snuff bottle with crabs
Probably Beijing Palace Workshops, Qianlong period, 乾隆 1736 – 1795
Height: 6.4 cm.
Imperial yellow glass carved with two crabs climbing on a ground of wicker-basket, the bottle of compressed globular form with a broad flared neck, the recessed foot carved with tight basket-weave.
The crab (蟹 or xie) is a pun for harmony and is related to the civil service examination. While one crab symbolizes the first class, two crabs designate the second class, corresponding to the fourth to tenth place in the palace examination. See Terese Tse Bartholomew, Hidden Meaning in Chinese Art (San Francisco: 2006), p. 89. Wolfram Eberhard in A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols, English Edition (New York: 1988), p. 74, tells the story of a well with jade crabs, which would have dried up around 1600. A foreign merchant kindled a fire every fourteen days, which corresponds to the period between the full moon and new moon, and finally caught a jade crab out of the well. The story does not tell how the merchant retrieved the crab out of the well, but a basket would be one's guess. The crab is a rare subject in Chinese art, especially with snuff bottles. The carving of the bottle is very deep, as if the basket enveloped the bottle and the crab would be climbing out of the basket. Both the excellent execution of the carving and the color of the yellow are attributable to the Palace Workshops.
Provenance 起源: Linda F. Crawley
Published 发布: Asiantiques, A Fascination for Miniatures: The Linda F. Crawley Collection of Chinese Snuff (2008), cat. no. 65