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Snuff bottle

Snuff bottle

  • Place of origin:

    China (made)

  • Date:

    1750-1895 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • 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 dome-shaped stopper.
It is made of chalcedony, grey with patches of tawny yellow and very small dark brown inclusions, with decoration carved in relief. The stopper is made of glass coloured green to imitate jade, set in metal.
The carved decoration depicts a grasshopper on a leaf. On the reverse there is a monkey and a bee.
The high gently faceted foot has a high indentation underneath.
The body of the grasshopper is formed by a patch of tawny yellow in the stone, and the eyes of the monkey by the small dark brown inclusions; the monkey is much smaller than the grasshopper. A monkey, hou, and a bee, feng, together form a visual pun meaning 'preferment to noble rank'.

Place of Origin

China (made)


1750-1895 (made)




Height: 5.9 cm

Descriptive line

Scu, China, carving, chalcedony

Scu, China, carving, chalcedony

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

Grasshopper; Bee (insect); Leaf; Monkey (animal)


ELISE; Containers; Personal accessories


East Asia Collection

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