Norton Museum of Art

West Palm Beach, Florida



Chinese Snuff Bottles at the Norton


The unique art form of snuff bottles are featured in the exhibition "Chinese Snuff Bottles", September 6 through November 16th at the Norton Museum of Art. Over 100 snuff bottles drawn exclusively from Florida collectors will be on display.

Snuff first came to Asia in the late sixteenth century via a circuitous route from the Americas. All scientists and scholars agree that tobacco was indigenous to the Central American region and, after Columbus, made its way to Europe where the French fashioned the elegant snuff box. Very soon thereafter, the Chinese adapted a preexisting medicine bottle to hold powdered snuff or ground tobacco. Thus, the art of making snuff bottles of every known material, carved and decorated, reached an apex of creativity in the late eighteenth century.

From that time on, some Chinese and Westerners collected these miniature masterpieces for the beauty of the object rather than as a dispenser of snuff. However, during the nineteenth century, the entire population used snuff so literally millions of bottles existed even though snuff taking is no longer used related to the communist revolution in China. After 1949, snuff was outlawed as a decadent habit of the Qing dynasty.

Today, bottles are only made by artists for the tourist and/or collector trade. The bottles on exhibit at the Norton Museum of Art represent a cross selection of precious materials including jade, semi-precious stones, ivory, lacquer, and amber as well as metal bottles and the largest category in sheer numbers, glass and porcelain.

Chinese Snuff Bottles will be accompanied by a number of scheduled events at the Museum including:

Wednesday, October 29, 1997 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Illustrated lecture by Dr. Daphne Rosenzwieg of Florida, "Reinterpreting the Recent Past: Nineteenth Century Chinese Life and Art." Followed by a question and answer period.


Glass seal bottle

A milk glass ground with red overlay illustrating a man and a horse lounging under a pine tree. Masks and mock ring handles are observable on hte sides of the bottle with an artist's studio seal on the right face. The stopper is a green and white jade set in a brass bezel. 1820-1880.


Glass snuff bottle

The artist has swirled molten red glass in an abstract pattern over a cerulean blue field. The artist has also created a red foot framing the base of the bottle. The stopper is of clear glass with an opaque yellow collar. 1780-1850.

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