A Private Collection of Antique Snuff Bottles

Theodore Bruce is delighted to offer this unique and striking collection of antique snuff bottles. Originating in 18th century China as tobacco holders, snuff bottles are today exquisite collectors items, often hand painted on glass or carved in jade, wood or stone.

Among the collection highlights is a rare Complete Set of Antique Chinese Hornbill Snuff Bottles Depicting the Eight Taoist Immortals.

An Antique Chinese Complete Set of Hornbill Snuff Bottles Depicting the Eight Taoist Immortals, Qing Dynasty, 19th Century

A note from the collectors…

Our collection has evolved over many years. As frequent travellers to Hong Kong and Singapore we enjoyed spending hours exploring the back streets and alleys where merchants and galleries thrived, these sadly no longer in evidence today. We became fascinated by snuff bottles used in ancient China to house snuff, a powdered tobacco believed to have medicinal benefits. Snuff was often offered as a traditional form of greeting.

The diversity of materials, shapes and decorating techniques employed was a direct reflection of the differences between social classes. Bottles therefore ranged from simple forms crafted in readily available materials to exquisitely detailed examples using rarer types.

A Chinese Carved Resin Snuff Bottle Depicting Intricate Figural Scenes 20th Century

Designed to fit snugly into the palm of the hand, these bottles were destined to have a tactile appeal as well. As their use increased in popularity, so too did their quality.

Agate, glass, ivory, malachite, hornbill, turquoise, silver, rock crystal and coral were but a few of the plethora of materials available. Whether artisans worked using cloisonné, lacquer work, inside painting or one of the many other decorative methods, each bottle was meticulously detailed in its execution.

The presence of various markings and striations on a chosen raw material often formed the basis upon which individual shapes and designs were fashioned, each bottle thus becoming a unique work of art.

Stoppers housing minuscule spoons were also carefully honed either in the same raw material or in a different contrasting type.

Increasingly we became intrigued by the breadth of these combined diversities. As our knowledge widened, so too did our quest for more varied examples. In the ensuing years we continued to scour markets, shops, galleries and auction sites, both overseas and in Australia.

The resulting collection represents a glimpse into the myriad of snuff bottle styles and is a lasting reminder of a bygone era.

Auction Details

A Private Collection of Antique Snuff Bottles
Thursday 18 August | Closing 6pm
In Our Rooms | Stanmore

View the catalogue and bid online now.

Theodore Bruce is Australia’s oldest family-run fine art and antique auction house. We offer regular auctions across departments including Aboriginal Art, Asian art, books, collectables, decorative arts, fine art, fashion, tribal & oceanic arts and single vendor collections. Please keep an eye on our Upcoming Auctions.

With decades of experience, our team is ready to help you on your auction journey.