Chinese Snuff Bottles from Southern Californian Collectors

Hammer Building, Level 2
October 29, 2016–January 21, 2018
Exhibition Image: Snuff Bottle with Playing Boys and Snuff Bottle

Snuff, a powdered form of tobacco from the Americas, was initially brought to China by European traders in the late 16th century, during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). It was in the 17th century, however, in the early Qing dynasty (1644–1911), that China witnessed a rise of snuff-taking among the upper classes. Inhaling snuff was perceived as more stylish and elegant than smoking tobacco, and this led to the subsequent use and collecting of snuff bottles (biyanhu).

Drawn from nine private collections in Southern California, the snuff bottles shown in this exhibition represent an extraordinary variety of materials, from porcelain, glass, and cloisonné to rock crystal, limestone with fossils, and bamboo. These miniature works of art reflect a wide range of decorative techniques, including carving, enameling, and painting on the inner surfaces of transparent bottles made of glass and crystal. These bottles reflect themes from history, mythology, poetry and prose, and religion. The exhibition also includes several rare imperial bottles bearing reign marks of the Qianlong (1736–1795) and Jiaqing (1796–1820) emperors. Buy the catalogue.

This exhibition is included in General Admission.
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This installation was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society.

Images: Unknown, Snuff Bottle with Playing Boys, 1880-1930, Chinese, courtesy of the Jin Hing Family Collection, photo © Paul Bielenberg 2015; Unknown, Snuff Bottle,1780-1850, Chinese, courtesy of the Jarvis Collection, photo © Paul Bielenberg 2015