Snuff Bottle

1800-1900 (made)
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
China, Room 44, The T.T. Tsui Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Snuff Bottle
  • Stopper
Materials and Techniques
Overlay carved glass
Brief Description
Snuff bottle, overlay carved glass, China, Qing dynasty, 19th century
Physical Description
Snuff bottle, oval flattened flask with cylindrical neck made of white-tinged transparent glass with an overlay of carved red glass. Decorated with a catfish on its back on a lotus leaf, with a lotus pod and flower. Similar design on reverse; lotus bud and a small fish on one shoulder, lotus leaf on the other shoulder. Small flat oval base overlaid with a large radiating lotus leaf. Dome-shaped coral stopper set in gilded metal.
Dimensions
  • Height: 6.3cm
Style
Gallery Label
  • Snuff bottle Qing dynasty 1800-1900 In Chinese, 'fish' is a homophone for 'abundance' and 'lotus' is a pun on 'continuous'. This bottle carries a wish for wealth and prosperity over many years to come. Overlay carved glass Salting Bequest Museum no. C.1639-1910(2009)
  • C.1639-1910 Oval flattened flask form with shoulders sloping up to a cylindrical neck; dome-shaped stopper set in gilded metal. Glass, transparent with a white tinge, with overlay of red glass partly cut away. Catfish on its back on lotus leaf, with lotus pod and flower; similar design on reverse; on one shoulder lotus bud and a small fish; lotus leaf on the other shoulder; large lotus leaf radiates up from base of bottle and it is this on which the fish rest. The word for fish (yu) makes a pun on the word for overflowing abundance, the word for catfish (nian) on the word for year, and the word for lotus (lian) on the word for continuous or successive; moreover a 'he bao' (lotus parcel or lotus enwrapped) is a sort of purse. Small flat oval base formed by overlay in form of central part of lotus leaf. 1750-1910 H. 6.3 cm Salting Bequest.(pre 2005)
Credit line
Salting Bequest
Object history
The Chinese word for fish, yu, makes a pun on the word for overflowing abundance, the word for catfish, nian, on the word for year, and the word for lotus, lian, on the word for continuous or successive. He bao, meaning 'lotus parcel' or 'lotus enwrapped', is also a sort of purse. Therefore the bottle carries a wish for wealth and prosperity for many years to come.
Subjects depicted
Summary
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.
Bibliographic Reference
White, Helen. Snuff Bottles from China. London: Bamboo Publishing Ltd in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1992. pp. 190-191, plate 87.
Collection
Accession Number
C.1639&A-1910

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record createdJune 30, 1998
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