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Ann Brunnier's Snuff Bottles

Posted on 08/05/2020 at 03:00 PM by Allison Sheridan

Snuff is a form of pulverized tobacco and aromatic spices. Snuff, first introduced by Europeans to the Chinese in the mid to late 16th Century, was stored in airtight containers, often snuff boxes, to preserve its aroma. To prevent daily exposure to the air, the snuff powder was transferred to a small storage jar, a snuff bottle with a dipper or spoon attached to the lid. Originally used by the highest of social standing, by mid-17th century, snuff was popular throughout all Chinese societal classes and was believed to have curative properties. Smoking was seen as distasteful, but the use of powered snuff inhaled through the nose was acceptable. Small-sized snuff bottles that were easy to transport, were carried about for individual use.


The bottles range from simplistic in design to highly ornate expressing the range of veneration for the tobacco product. Some of the most puzzling examples include the glass “inside painted”, especially as glass was a prized medium. The true inside painted bottles (as opposed to the now prolific tourist reproductions) are created by working a specialized brush through the neck of the glass bottle, painting backwards with incredible skill.

The  permanent collection includes 70 examples of Chinese and Japanese snuff bottles, along with European snuff boxes made through a variety of techniques in materials such as glass, ivory, wood, lacquer, jade, celluliod, agate, coral and horn of yak. Snuff bottles from the 18th through the 20th century compose most of the permanent collection’s holdings, although the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912 was the end of the popularity of snuff in China, the major consumers of snuff and thus, snuff bottle production. Most of the snuff bottles in the permanent collection are gifts of Ann and Henry Brunnier.
 

IMAGE ABOVE LEFT: Snuff bottle of black rutilated quartz, transparent around neck, opaque frosting at body interior with inclusions of hair-like black tourmaline needles, especially shown at one side. Snuff Bottle, Late 19th century. Black rutilated quartz. Origin: China. Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. 11.2.12ab

IMAGE ABOVE RIGHT: Snuff bottle with stopper. Creamy white ivory carved into a girl in reclining posture with one leg uplifting, holding a ball and a Pekin dog in front of her. Likely only for decorative purposes. Snuff Bottle, Late 19th century. Ivory. Origin: Japan. Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. 11.2.25


IMAGE 1: Articles made of celluloid material were popular before the war. Snuff Bottle, 1900-1940. Celluloid. Origin: China. Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. 11.2.64

IMAGE 2: This agate snuff bottle has a relief design using the white surface of the agate which was carved. Carved relief of a Chinese scholar on a donkey under a plum blossom branch on one side. A small boy servant carries a spray of plum blossoms and follows his master. The whole design has been incised by a quick turning, electric drill which indicates it is a modern, 20th century work of art. Snuff Bottle, 20th century. Agate. Origin: China. Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. 11.2.1 

IMAGE 3: This limestone snuff bottle example is one of the oldest in the permanent collection. Snuff Bottle, 1780-1860. Limestone. Origin: China. Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. 11.2.16ab

IMAGE 4: Ovate rounded snuff bottle of pinkish-orange coral. Carved at one side with peony flowers in high relief. The attached spoon is of red colored bone. Likely produced for the tourist trade. Snuff Bottle, 20th century. Coral. Origin: China. Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. 11.2.19

IMAGE 5: Snuff bottle with stopper. Ovate rounded bottle, reticulated and moulded with a dragon at one side and a phoenix at the other side amidst clouds under a white glaze. Heart shaped “ju-i” pattern around shoulder and bottom border; “key-fret” band around neck, undecorated and unglazed at mouth-rim. Stopper is inlayed copper with coral and turquoise. Snuff Bottle, Late 19th century. Porcelain. Origin: China. Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. 11.2.32

IMAGE 6: The earliest known Chinese snuff bottles were made of brass, between 1646 and 1653, during the Shun Zhi period (1644-1661). It is said that when Emperor Kang Xi (1654-1722) celebrated his sixtieth birthday he was given two bottles of snuff by Jesuit missionaries. By the Qing Long period, a number of enameled snuff bottles were produced for the use of the imperial household. On the bottom are incised marks filled with blue enamel indicating the reign during which they were manufactured. Today these bottles are considered the finest and rarest specimens. Snuff Bottle, Early 20th century. Copper, carved red lacquer. Origin: China. Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. 11.2.34ab

IMAGE 7: Ovoid flask shaped snuff bottle of black yak horn, with design filigree in relief over scalloped shoulder and neck. Stones are a combination of natural turquoise and coral. Stopper is the same decoration, original gilded brass spoon. It is thought that this snuff bottle was made in China for the Tibetan market. Snuff Bottle, 20th century. Horn and metal accents. Origin: China. Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. 11.2.37

IMAGE 8: Flattened globular snuff bottle with cylindrical neck. Single overlay of red on clear glass carved at each side with “Ying-Yang” (female-male) symbol enclosed in a circle of eight trigrams. The stopper of translucent dark green glass has light green collar attached with a spoon in bone. Snuff Bottle, Late 19th century. Glass. Origin: China. Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. 11.2.49

IMAGE 9: This glass snuff bottle is decorated with inside painted landscape showing mountain village at the bank of a river. Two ferry boats, one with a passenger, connecting the group of houses to the other bank. A crescent moon has been placed in the sky which reflects the title, Evening Ferry Boat in the Autumn River (written on top of bottle). Hsueh Shao-Fu’s snuff bottles were popular with tourists. Snuff Bottle, Evening Ferry Boat in the Autumn River, 1936-37, by Hsueh Shao-Fu. Inside painted glass. Origin: China. Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. 11.2.57

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