Agate snuff bottle, China, 19th century

Last night I attended a lecture on—why not?—antique Chinese snuff bottles. Snuff is, of course, made of spiced tobacco, a New World commodity, and made its way east to Europe and then on to China with the Portuguese and the Jesuits (whose gifts of snuff and snuff-boxes were among the few Western trinkets not disdained by the Emperor). I was surprised at how small the bottles were—barely the size of the smallest cell phone, with their stopper-openings about a quarter-inch in diameter.

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Carved agate jujube-form snuff bottle, China, 19th century, from the exhibition “Private Passions: Collecting Miniature Works of Asian Art,” at the Portland Art Museum, 2010

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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