Snuff bottles use traditional Chinese art practices such as painting, porcelain manufacture, jade and stone carving and enamelling.
The function of a Chinese snuff bottles was twofold: to contain snuff in a convenient manner, and to be a beautiful handheld object. Snuff, or ground tobacco, was introduced to China by England in the 16th century and became embraced by elite members of society. While the English used boxes to contain their snuff, the Chinese developed the snuff bottle as a smaller, more convenient method of transporting snuff, that also kept moisture out with their typically very small openings.
These bottles are usually perfectly sized to fit in the palm of one’s hand, and have a stopper with a tiny spoon attached. Beyond these commonalities, they can range widely in their material, colour, size, method of decoration, and the motifs themselves. Chinese artists and snuff bottle users alike saw these bottles as fertile ground for artistic and personal expression, and borrowed motifs, themes, and techniques from traditional Chinese art practices (painting, porcelain, lacquer ware, and so on). Because of this, the world of snuff bottles can be fittingly described as Chinese art in miniature.
Chinese Snuff Bottle Society
Crystals and Stones
BY COCO BANKS
Minneapolis Institute of Art, from 14 September to 7 June, 2020, new.artsmia.org