This small bottle is a snuff bottle, from the Qing Dynasty, China. Snuff is a form of tobacco that is inhaled rather than smoked. The Chinese believed that snuff was a remedy for illnesses such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets. It was carried around in little bottles such as the one on the right.
It is made from clear moulded glass, and shows two horsemen, one in red, one in blue, charging as if in battle. So what’s special about it? The illustrations have been painstakingly painted from the inside! Imagine how delicate a process that would be for the painter. The images on snuff bottles such as this might only have been a couple of inches high so it took a highly skilled craftsman to paint a bottle in this way, and some elaborate designs would have taken days or even weeks to complete.
The bottle is an example of ‘Beijing glass’, developed in the Chinese capital in the late 19th Century. An inscription in Chinese, probably a poem has been written on the bottle as well. This had to be written backwards so that it was the right way round on the outside of the bottle. This bottle was purchased by Major Stewart, on a visit to China between 1906 and 1914. (Major Percy Marlborough Stewart was and adventurer, traveller, scholar, soldier and collector who purchased the Burnby Hall estate in Yorkshire in 1901).