Chinese Snuff Bottles Set to Star in Asian Art Sale


The next Asian Art sale on Tuesday 8 November includes a wonderful selection of Chinese snuff bottles, including a special early 20th century example which is expected to reach between £600-£800.
This 3in (7.6cm) high glass snuff bottle, dating to 1903, is signed by the master painter Ma Shaoxuan (1867-1939) and is astonishing for the quality of the painting, which was carried out on the inside via the neck of the bottle. These first appeared in the early 19th century and are the most sought after type of snuff bottle.

Snuff, a product of tobacco, became popular after smoking – introduced by the Portuguese in the late 16th century – was banned under the Qing dynasty.

Elaborate snuff bottles became status symbols among the rich and powerful and were used to carry snuff as a medicine for colds and other disorders. Offering a pinch of snuff also became part of the greeting ceremony in polite society, which of course provided an opportunity to show off the quality of your snuff bottle.

Also made from porcelain, jade, ivory and other materials, glass was most commonly used and allowed for the painting of elaborate scenes such as this one of a village in a mountainous landscape, with travellers ride on donkeys passing by.

With a coral stopper – many have a small spoon attached – it carries inscriptions to the reverse and is signed and dated.

As with other precious Chinese works of art, fakes can be a problem, so consult a reliable expert source when buying, which Sworders can provide.

The Asian Art sale at Sworders is now online here.


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