To celebrate the beauty of Chinese craftsmanship, the National Museum of History will be presenting 158 snuff bottles with delicate interior paintings, all drawn by the late renowned artist Suo Zhen-hai (索振海), from Nov. 22 through Jan. 19, 2014.
The glass bottles have pictures and calligraphy painted on the inside surface of the glass. These delightful scenes are only an inch or two high, and are painted in reverse by manipulating the brush through the neck of the bottles, with each bottleneck measuring no more than a quarter of an inch in width.
The inside paintings of the snuff bottles made by Suo cover five major themes - landscapes, flowers and birds, animals, human portraits and figures, and replicates of imperial Chinese works. The event organizers hope that the exhibition will lead the public to gain a deeper understanding of the beauty of snuff bottles.
The origins of snuff lie with the indigenous people of South America. Snuff consists of quality tobacco leaves that are finely grounded into powder, to which floral essences and other fragrances are added. After fermentation, it is then sealed and aged. As opposed to the cigarette, which is burned for the smoker to inhale its smoke, snuff is directly sniffed through the nostrils. With its stimulating sneeze-inducing effect and unique aroma, it is said that snuff can clear one's nasal passages.
The late renowned artist Suo Zhen-hai (1954 - 2006), who was born in Raoyang County of Hebei Province in China, never underwent formal art education, but he was exceptionally talented in painting and calligraphy and he frequently utilized these techniques in his works. His legacy includes snuff bottles on a wide range of subjects, such as landscapes, flowers, birds, human figures and pavilions.