Glass snuff bottle, made by Liu Shou-ben

Beijing, China, AD 1965

Delicately painted from the inside

Snuff bottles painted on the inside are particularly admired by collectors. This difficult technique uses a very thin bamboo brush, inserted through the narrow neck of the bottle and angled to make the required brush strokes. Glass, rock crystal and chalcedony are the usual materials used. The inside surface must be slightly rough for the water-based pigments to adhere. On glass, this is achieved with an acid solution.

Gan Xuanwen, active in the early part of the nineteenth century, is the first documented artist of inside-painted snuff bottles. Other artists worked in this style throughout the century, but it was in the 1870s that the medium began to flourish. A huge quantity of these snuff bottles were made between the 1890s and 1920s. Many were produced for purely commercial reasons, but some painters created fine works of art.

This bottle was made in 1965 and signed by the artist. It is delicately painted with traditional motifs, a fisherman in a sampan and a deity in a logboat.

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More information


J. Rawson (ed.), The British Museum book of Chi (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)


Height: 7.000 cm (with stopper)

Museum number

Asia OA 1973.6-21.1


Gift of H.M. Moss


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