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 There are 157 bottles in the collection which are made from a wide variety of materials.

EDINBURGH.- One of the largest collections of Chinese snuff bottles, valued at £40,000, are for sale at Lyon & Turnbull on the 4th June 2014, spanning three centuries the snuff bottles belong to Mrs Chris Bennett who lives in Perthshire. She started collecting in 1976 with a visit to a local auction, she said “I saw a small painted glass bottle. I bid for it and came away with the bottle in my pocket, having spent all of £3.” 

There are 157 bottles in the collection which are made from a wide variety of materials. Lee Young, Asian Specialist at Lyon & Turnbull said “Being so small, the artists often took the opportunity to express their playfulness and ingenuity. The stone would be carved, poked and prodded into a shape which was comfortable to hold in the palm of the hand, and at the same time, in beautiful or humorous shapes. For instance we have snuff boxes shaped like a fish, a three legged toad and chili peppers.” 

The Qianlong dynasty (1736-95) is considered to be the pinnacle of snuff bottle artistry. The glass bottles with two or sometimes three different colours, are dipped in various layers of coloured molten glass, and then carved back through the layers to show a scene of birds in a garden, or dragons chasing each others tails and the forever flaming pearl, across the small circumference of the bottle, often not more than 6cm tall. 

Mrs Bennett said “Weekends were spent browsing Edinburgh antique shops in search for bottles, and I soon found that this was not going to be a quick or easy. I am sad to see them go, but I hope the bottles will form the base of new collections and find homes with budding new or discerning experienced collectors alike.” 

The collection has two interesting glass bottles with gold ‘aventurine’ splashes, one blue glass, and the other emerald green estimate, £500 each (lots 255 and 248). Young continued “The artist carver examined jade pebbles carefully so that their flaws and inclusions could be brought to their advantage. Flawed or plain, jade bottles offered many alternatives for the collector.” In the collection there is a wide range from a green white jadeite bottle estimate £700 (lot 264), an unusual yellow jade bottle estimate £2,000 (lot 244), a celadon melon shape £600 (lot 232), and a smooth white, which is highly prized. Other unusual bottles include a dark green glass melon bottle £800 (lot 217) and an amusing Duan stone chili £500 (lot 252). The ruby matrix bottle is also rare £300 (lot 254). Other materials include porcelain which was highly adaptable due to its mouldable qualities, glass or glass overlay, lapis lazuli, aventurine, rock crystal, cloisonné, or the inside painted bottles, which could take the artist months to complete, all through a tiny hole not wider than 5mm at times. There are also amber, shagreen, tortoiseshell, ivory, coral, mother of pearl and lacquer as examples of organic materials. 

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Lot 255. Blue glass and gold splash snuff bottle (1750-1850), of flattened round shape with flecks of gold reminiscent of aventurine, spoon and green carved glass stopper;6.1cm high. Estimate £300-500. Photo courtesy Lyon & Turnbull

Provenance: The Chris Bennett Collection of Snuff Bottles

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Lot 248. Green glass and aventurine splash snuff bottle, late 19th century; small, of flattened round form, double layer of glass, with clear glass stopper; 4.8cmEstimate £300-500. Photo courtesy Lyon & Turnbull

Provenance: The Chris Bennett Collection of Snuff Bottles

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Lot 264. Four jade snuff bottles, comprising: a small flattened spade shape bottle with chilong dragons, red stopper; a spade shaped pale grey/green bottle with incised decoration, red stone stopper with blue collar; a plain white bottle with green stopper; and a large rounded square bottle with a bird amongst clouds, green stopper (4); 4.6cm, 7.3cm, 7.5cm, 8.6cm respectively. Estimate £500-700. Photo courtesy Lyon & Turnbull

Provenance: The Chris Bennett Collection of Snuff Bottles

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Lot 244. Yellow jade snuff bottle,  18th-19th century, of flattened oval form with calcite inclusions, red stopper with silver collar; 7.8cm high. Estimate £1,500-2,000. Photo courtesy Lyon & Turnbull

LITERATURE: for a similar bottle, see Stevens, Bob. C, The Collector's Book of Snuff Bottles, Weatherhill, 1994, pl. 361 

Provenance: The Chris Bennett Collection of Snuff Bottles

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Lot 232. Three snuff bottles comprising: a large melon form bottle with bat and vines trailing in relief, red stopper; a rounded cylinder form celadon jade bottle, incised with Mughal-style vines, mounted coral stopper; and a celadon white glass bottle with turquoise glass stopper (3); 7cm, 5.2cm & 6cm highEstimate £400-600  Photo courtesy Lyon & Turnbull

Provenance: The Chris Bennett Collection of Snuff Bottles

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Lot 217. Three snuff bottles comprising: a green and red overlay glass pumpkin form bottle decorated with trailing vines, glass stopper; a Peking glass with red overlay bottle of flattened disc form, of a cat below lotus chasing a bat, the other side with a dragon, shoulder with mask handles, coral red stopper; a black overlay glass 'snowstorm' ground bottle of flattened oval form, circa 1750-1820, carved with chrysanthemum, flowers and leaves on both sides, silver mounted red stopper (3); 3.2cm, 8.2cm and 7.3cm respectivelyEstimate £500-800. Photo courtesy Lyon & Turnbull

Provenance: The Chris Bennett Collection of Snuff Bottles

 

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Lot 252. Duan stone snuff bottle in the form of a chili fruit, the stone finely modelled, tapering to a sharp point, with green hardstone stopper; 9cm longEstimate £300-500. Photo courtesy Lyon & Turnbull

Provenance: The Chris Bennett Collection of Snuff Bottles

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Lot 254. Ruby matrix small carved snuff bottle,  19th century style, of melon shape with a pair of squirrels, hardstone stopper;4cm high. Estimate £200-300. Photo courtesy Lyon & Turnbull 

Provenance: The Chris Bennett Collection of Snuff Bottles 

Snuff was introduced to the Chinese by the Portuguese in the 17th century. At first taking snuff was a hobby of the Emperor and literati Mandarins, then it spread across the country and by the 19th century, was found in almost every home. 

Powdered tobacco was taken as a pinch on the top of the hand, from the thumb and forefinger, or from a small dish. One carried small bottles in the pocket, or kept a larger bottle in the home, with small dishes or saucers to offer to visiting guests. Lee Young said “Often, snuff is still found at the bottom of these small bottles, to remind us of their real use. But today, just as in the 18th and 19th centuries, snuff bottles are collected for their beauty and wit; being small, they can turn even the most space-challenged enthusiast into a collector.” 

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There are 157 bottles in the collection which are made from a wide variety of materials.