Chinese Snuff Bottles - Beautiful Miniature Art
Snuff Bottles as Art and Gifts
Snuff bottles have long history for the Chinese. While they began as a practical bottle to carry snuff in, they eventually evolved into complex and beautiful works of art to convey taste, style, and status. This lens will introduce you to Chinese snuff bottles as well as show you a few places where you can buy snuff bottles today.
The use of snuff was originally confined to the upper class but eventually became a staple for all social classes. At this point, of course, the upper class had to somehow distinguish themselves and began to seek out the most beautiful, the most elegant, and the most unique snuff bottles.
A variety of snuff bottles exist today from the very affordable, mass-produced souvenir-type to complex, delicately decorated bottles that appeal to collectors. Snuff bottles have been made with porcelain, stone, wood, jade, ivory, and more, though the most popular material is glass. In addition to landscapes, it's possible to find many different motif designs on snuff bottles. Some examples are dragons, animals, women, and Chinese characters.
Learn more about snuff bottles at Wikipedia.
Books About Snuff Bottles
This book clearly explains the history of snuff and its specialized bottles from the 17th century to the present in America, Europe, and China. For the novice, it provides fascinating background and descriptive information, and for the established collector it showcases over 650 diverse snuff bottles to study and admire through excellent color photographs.
Illustrated with twenty-four full-color and sixteen black-and-white plates, this book serves as a useful and entertaining introduction to the collecting of snuff bottles. After tracing the history of snuff in Chinese culture, Robert Kleiner surveys the many styles of snuff bottles, dividing them by materials and methods of decoration used.
Vintage Snuff Bottles on eBay
If you're looking for vintage snuff bottles, eBay is the place to start looking. At any given time, you can find dozens of beautiful snuff bottles made in many different styles and materials at reasonable prices.
Inside painted snuff bottles are quite a feat, especially back in the early 1800s, when the first inside painted snuff bottles were made. Not only was there tremendous skill and patience required to paint intricate designs on the interior of the snuff bottle, there also required a level of materials science and materials processing knowledge to make the glass transparent without impurities!
Buy this snuff bottle from Good Orient.
It has been told often that the origin of the inside painted snuff bottles came about by accident. In the Qing Dynasty, an official stopping at a temple found his snuff bottle empty, and thus, he decided to use a thin stick to scrape off the snuff gathered on the walls of the snuff bottle. This left lines that could be seen through his crystal snuff bottle. Later, a monk found his discarded snuff bottle, and the idea of the inside painted snuff bottle was born.
Today, inside painted snuff bottles are still made and are very popular among collectors. Take a close look at one and you'll notice that eyelashes and black lines must be painted in before the rest of the color is painted. Also, calligraphy must be written in reverse!
Popular Motifs on Snuff Bottles
Intricate designs on snuff bottles
Designs on snuff bottles are limitless, and you can find virtually any design you can think of. However, there are a few more traditional art subjects that adorn many snuff bottles. Below are just a small sampling of snuff bottle designs. Click on any snuff bottle below to purchase from Good Orient.
$30.98 / $40.98
$16.98 / $27.98 / $16.98
$90.98 / $19.98 / $19.98
$40.98 / $19.98 / $19.98
$16.98 / $19.98 / $19.98
Snuff Bottles on Amazon
While the selection is much smaller, it is possible to find snuff bottles on Amazon. I especially like the snuff bottles that come with their own display case. These snuff bottles are great as a classy gift.
Take a look at the picture above, and you'll find snuff bottles made from many different materials. Can you identify jade, wood, porcelain, stone, glass, ivory, lacquer, amber, and more? Image used here under Creative Common licensing. Original Image
Snuff Bottle Links - More information, photos, collections
- International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society
Great resource to find dealers and experts on snuff bottles. Also lists schedule for national snuff bottle conventions.
- Asian Art Mall
Great resource for snuff bottles. Also has introductory descriptions for several different snuff bottle techniques such as color overlay.
- Robert Hall's Snuff Bottle Collection
Homepage of a well-respected snuff bottle collector and expert. He is also one of the leading dealers in the world.
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