The inside-painted snuff bottle is a handicraft with elements from Chinese traditions.
Snuff was popular in Europe in the 17th century. It was introduced in China in the late Ming Dynasty and early Qing Dynasty. At that time, snuff bottles mainly acted as containers for smokeless tobacco. In Chinese hands, however, they turned into delicate expressions of art. Artists used see-through materials such as crystal, glass and amber to paint them from the inside. Today, snuff as a habit is all but gone in the country, yet snuff bottles are prized as exquisite souvenirs and collectors’ items. It is the inside painting technique that has lent the pocket art such popularity.
Inside painting is different from painting on the outside. To begin with, the entire procedure is in reverse. First, the brush has to move in opposite direction of the painter’s sight. The other challenge is the narrow opening of the bottles, it requires special brushes. For the artist, it is difficult to see the position of the pen while painting, so it is a true test of one’s artistic ability and patience. (subtitle: Inside Painting - National Intangible Cultural Heritage)
When an artist paints, he should keep his breath steady and wrist strong. The most important thing is to paint without errors. One wrong stroke will result in the rinsing of the entire work and the artist has to start from the beginning again.
Snuff bottle inside painting borrows from traditional Chinese painting and depicts the same elements of Chinese folktales, Chinese landscape, humanities and culture. The Beijing school snuff bottle has had a long tradition and enjoys immense popularity. Today Hebei school, Shandong school, Guangdong school etc have given the art their own unique touch.
Beijing school masters generally have high literary and artistic skills. They mainly focus on traditional themes and historical stories. They use simple colors with rigor, providing elegant and unique artistic enjoyment. Portraits are the defining characteristic of the Hebei school. In particular, they portray babies. The most distinctive feature of the Shandong school is that it uses glaze color on porcelain to draw, and then bakes it to form the enamel painting of snuff bottle, which won’t get damaged easily, it can withstand water as well. The youngest school is the Guangdong faction, famous for its gorgeous colors and decorative styles.
Each square inch of a snuff bottle hides the painstaking labour that goes into it. It’s the craftsman’s spirit and charm of the Chinese art that are visible in the finished product. Fancy a snuff bottle with Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe on it? How about Dumbledore, the gentle headmaster of the Potter-verse? A heady mix of pop culture and art is taking the snuff bottle universe by storm and expanding its popularity online.
監 制：戴 凡
編 導：劉璟 吳婧 白玥 孫磊 高志偉 佟明月