Christie's will offer a collection of 37 fine and rare snuff bottles from a private American collection for auction this Oct.7 in its Hong Kong's office. Its highlights include two enameled glass snuff bottles, with an estimated value of 4-5 million HK dollars.
The collection was dated back from 18th to 19th century. Several of them were made during of the reign of Emperor Qianlong from imperial workshops, said Christie's Vice President cum Senior Specialist Ruben Lien.
Lien told Xinhua that enameled glass bottles required great skills in the control of temperatures of the glass body and those of the painted enamels. "Imagine that in the Qing Dynasty there were no thermometers, controlling temperatures totally depended on the experience of craftsmen. A craftsman with lesser skills would have ended up with his bottles deformed in the kilns."
Lien said these miniature forms demonstrate the highest level of craftsmanship in the imperial workshops during the 18th century. "Also, all of 37 bottles represent some of the most exquisite gem- like miniatures of their type," he added.
Snuff bottles are small containers for ground tobacco powders, one of the most popular fashion items carried with the Chinese royal family and social elite in the 18th and 19th centuries. People used to carry snuff bottles with them and inhale a pinch of tobacco powders to refresh their spirits. "They believed that tobacco will help to clear their lungs or something," Lien said.
"When aristocrats met, they would bring out various kinds of snuff bottles to show off and compare with each other. Snuff bottles used to be the symbol of status in that time in the past," he added.
Besides the enameled glass material, there are also snuff bottles made of vastly different materials and with various decorative techniques, such as jade carving, glassware, ceramics, lacquerware and bamboo in this collection.
According to Christie's website, exhibition of snuff bottles collection will be held from Oct.4 to 7, with official auction set on Oct.7.