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Snuff bottle

Snuff bottle

  • Place of origin:

    China (made)

  • Date:

    1750-1909 (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 irregular flattened ovoid form, with a curved base so that the bottle does not stand up. It has a dome-shaped stopper.
The bottle is made of quartz, grey, with a skin of milky white chalcedony, with decoration carved in relief; the stopper of glass coloured green to imitate jade.
The carved decoration depicts a tall jar containing ruyi sceptres or magic fungus and a fly-whisk; a man with his hands in a squat jar or vat; a crackled vase containing perhaps coral. On the reverse there is a lotus plant.
The bottle does not have a foot or a flat base.
On one side the chalcedony skin is carved to depict the main subject matter, with little carving of the background material; on the reverse the quartz itself is carved. The decoration may contain a pun on the word for 'jar', guan, which also means 'official'.

Place of Origin

China (made)


1750-1909 (made)



Descriptive line

Scu, China, carving, quartz

Scu, China, carving, quartz

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

Man; Fly whisk; Jars; Lotus; Vases; Magic fungus


ELISE; Containers; Personal accessories


East Asia Collection

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