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Snuff bottle

Snuff bottle

  • Place of origin:

    China (made)

  • Date:

    1750-1895 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    White semi-opaque glass with an overlay of red glass, carved in relief

  • Credit Line:

    Salting Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Snuff is powdered tobacco, usually blended with aromatic herbs or spices. The habit of snuff-taking spread to China from the West during the 17th century and became established in the 18th century. People generally carried snuff in a small bottle. By the 20th century these bottles had become collectors' items, owing to the great variety of materials and decorative techniques used in their production.

Physical description

The bottle is an oval flattened flask form with a particularly wide neck hole and narrow neck walls. It does not have a stopper.
It is made of white semi-opaque glass with an overlay of red glass carved in relief.
The decoration depicts two crabs among rushes, one seizing a plant with its claws. On the reverse is a crab seizing a plant with its claws, a lotus leaf and a bubble. A continuous lotus leaf rises from the base of the bottle, forming the sea bed and suggesting waves.
The high foot is formed by the overlay with angular indentation underneath.
The decoration forms a complex pun: er jia chuan lu, ('Two suits of armour [crabs] through the rushes') also means 'First place in the Second Class of the jinshi degree' (Zhongguo Jixiang Tu'an, p. 478).
The carving is of good quality.

Place of Origin

China (made)


1750-1895 (made)



Materials and Techniques

White semi-opaque glass with an overlay of red glass, carved in relief


Height: 6.2 cm

Descriptive line

White semi-opaque glass snuff bottle with an overlay of red glass, carved in relief, China, ca.19th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

White, Helen. Snuff Bottles from China. London: Bamboo Publishing Ltd in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1992. 291p., ill. ISBN 1870076109.





Subjects depicted

Crab; Plants; Waves (water); Lotus; Aquatic environments; Air-traps; Rush


ELISE; Images Online; Containers; Personal accessories; Glass


East Asia Collection

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