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Snuff bottle

  • Place of origin:

    China (made)

  • Date:

    1796-1820 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Credit Line:

    Given by W. G. Gulland, Esq.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 137, The Curtain Foundation Gallery, case 14, shelf 7 []

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 a flattened ovoid form with a flared neck and a flat-topped stopper.
It is made of porcelain, moulded in relief with a reticulated surface forming an outer casing over an inner body, and covered with blue enamel.
The flat upper surface of the neck-rim and the underside of the foot are gilded.
The stopper is made of jadeite jade set in silver.
The relief depicts Taoist emblems and flowers, perhaps gardenias, on a ground of cloud scrolls. There are lappet borders around the base and the shoulder and a key-fret border around the neck. On the underside of the neck-rim and around the foot there is a line of dots.
The foot is high with a curved indentation underneath.
The moulded decoration is almost identical to that on the red bottle C.1049-1917. This design is most common in red, which suggests it was inspired by the appearance of lacquer objects. However, it does appear in at least two shades of blue; this dark blue, reminiscent of lapis lazuli and a lighter blue perhaps intended to suggest a turquoise.

Place of Origin

China (made)


1796-1820 (made)



Descriptive line

Chinese snuff bottle, porcelain moulded in relief with an enamel skin, decoration depicts Taoist emblems and flowers, Qing Dynasty; 1796-1820.

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

Flowers (plants); Cloud scrolls


ELISE; Containers; Personal accessories; Ceramics


East Asia Collection

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