The art of the Chinese snuff bottle has its origins in the introduction of tobacco to the Imperial Court of the Manchus (Qing Dynasty 1642-1911).
Powdered snuff was regarded as having medicinal qualities and with Court patronage, rapidly grew in popularity. Ornate and intricate bottles to hold and dispense the "medicinal" snuff were designed by Chinese craftsmen using a bewildering array of materials: porcelain, enamel, metal, wood, jadeite, ivory and glass, often employing techniques known only in China at the time.
Snuff bottles are elaborately decorated, invariably miniature and admired for their tactile qualities. The surviving examples are highly prized by collectors and students of the history of arts and crafts in China.
This book is the third catalogue of the vast Denis Low collection of snuff bottles, which numbers more than 1000. Its publication coincides with an exhibition of 355 snuff bottles from this world-renowned collection at the Asian Civilisations Museum from July to November 2007.
Largely organised by the material of fabrication, each snuff bottle is carefully described and provenance details are given. Although this book is not meant to be a scholarly study of snuff bottles, much research has been done by Denis Low, the results of which can be seen from the notes he presents on the style, design, decoration, use or uniqueness of each example featured here.