Types of Snuff Bottles

Birth and Evolution of Snuff Bottles

Chinese art in its millennial history has reached unique levels of expressions, that other cultures never could match when they tried to imitate it.
Among the many various expressions of Chinese art there is one fascinating yet less known, that combines different kinds of art production, and at the same time describes throughout the decoration, the myths and legends belonging to the cultural Chinese tradition.
This kind of art is represented by the Snuff Bottles.
Those are various shaped little bottles, often of delicate, refined and extraordinary beauty.
They were produced as a consequence to the very popular western custom to sniff tobacco. Chinese snuff bottles are the containers of this precious material.
In Europe, snuff tobacco powder was kept in miniature boxes called snuff boxes due to the use to which they were destined.
Such as the snuffbox was part of the personal outfit of the European gentleman, such the snuff bottle became part of the outfit of the Chinese nobleman.
This justifies their little dimensions, generally between 4 cm. and 7 cm. (they might be bigger or smaller), easy to be placed in pockets, bags or hung to clothes.
The use of small bottles as snuff tobacco containers instead of the more comfortable European snuffboxes was perhaps motivated by the fact that bottle shaped medicine containers were very popular in China, then those were adjusted to the new custom, but this will be explained in the section «Shapes».


  • Bottle made by glass with glass overlay About XVIII century may be attributed to Beijing Imperial Palace Workshop.

  • White jade bottle about end of XVIII starting of XIX century.

  • Alloy relief décor bottle with semiprecious stones set, second half of XIX century.

  • Enamelled porcelain bottle, by the end of XVIII.

  • Chalcedony bottle with white engraved overlay about XVIII century starting of XIX century.

  • Snuff bottle extraordinary example in enamelled glass from Beijing Imperial Palace Workshop with Qianlong’s seal on the basis. XVIII century .

Snuff Bottles attributed to Beijing Imperial Palace Workshop

  • Glass Snuff Bottles with decoration made by coloured glass paste with engraved relief. XVIII Century, Qianlong’s Age.

  • Carved coloured glass snuff bottles, glass XVIII century. Qianlong’s Age.
    Beijing Imperial Palace Workshop snuff bottle are best renowned for sobriety, chromatic quality of the material and engraving level.

  • Bottiglia in smalto su rame. Sec. XVIII

  • White jade snuff bottle with grey tones, engraved about XVIII century.