Chinese Snuff Bottle

I thowught we might return to China and look at something which was made to carry snuff or powdered tobacco. Snuff was considered as a remedy for common illnesses such as colds, flu, headaches and even stomach upset (smoking tobacco was illegal). The Chinese carried their snuff in small bottles – the Europeans used small ornate boxes.

Snuff bottles were made to fit in the palm of ones hand. Easy to carry and small enough to not be overly noticeable when being carried. Snuff bottles were made from a variety of materials – porcelain, jade, ivory, wood, rhinoceros horn, tortoise shell, ceramic and metal – but the most used was glass. The stopper usually had a small spoon attached.

Snuff bottles were decorated with paintings or carvings. The better the quality of the artwork the more valuable the bottle. The artwork was so good at times that one dare not use the snuff bottle lest one damage the artwork. Inside painted are bottles which bear pictures and often calligraphy on the inside surface of the glass. Usually the image is only one to two inches tall and is painted through the neck of the bottle in reverse. A very skilled artist might complete a simple scene in a week, something special in a few months but something truly fine and intricate only 3 or 4 in a year.

The #snuffbottle in my collection has painted on it – a buildings entrance or gateway on one side and a person in a hut on the other. Foliage flows around the bottle and birds can be seen on both sides. It stands just over 3″ (76mm – with stopper in) and 3/4″ (18mm)wide. It has a tourmaline stopper with a gold metal strip and a tiny gold spoon attached. A nice piece and very finely paintings ed.

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