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Modern Art of Snuff Bottle

The Art of miniature painting: A novelty of Chinese snuff bottle

Updated: Sep 8, 2021


Inside Painting is an exquisite Chinese art form extended from traditional Chinese Painting. It is an innovative art form. This article, with three sections, brings you a deeper understanding of the inside painted snuff bottle. The first section introduces the development of inside Painting, characteristics, the difficulty of Painting, and the various mediums applied on other than snuff bottles exclusively. The second section argues whether the inside Painting is a work of art or mere handicraft. The last part describes the current market situation on snuff bottles. - Estimated reading time: 5 mins

An artist is painting the Snuff Bottle with different pigments. D.D Art
An artist is painting the Snuff Bottle with different pigments. Picture from Internet.

What is an inside-painted snuff bottle? The interior painted snuff bottle is a branch of the snuff bottle. It can be regarded as another expression of snuff bottle art. Read more about The history of the snuff bottle. Since the Qing Dynasty, there have been different expression in snuff bottles, such as standard snuff bottles, enameled glass snuff bottles, and last inner-painted snuff bottles. They are conspicuous members in the snuff bottle family. The most popular features of snuff bottles are the nature of inventiveness and artistry. Due to the small size, collectors could easily hold the artwork in one palm at any time, which ordinary paintings can't do. Therefore, many collectors love this miniature work very much. They deemed it as a small collectable work. However, the members of each snuff bottle have a different group of fans. Some people like ordinary snuff bottles, and some favor enameled glass snuff bottles due to their elegant appearance and difficulty of production. Whereas We, D.D Art, focuses mainly on inside painted snuff bottles in old and contemporary fields. The inside painted snuff bottle is divided into two categories. The early is the old inside painting snuff bottle headed by the four great painters in the late Qing Dynasty and the inheritors of the four primary schools of contemporary inside painting. The modern one is headed by the four major inside painting schools. The is the introduction to four schools. Both are in the inside painted snuff bottles genre, but the collectors have different preferences, and each has its own merits. This article mainly explains the various forms, characteristics, difficulty of painting, and the current market situation of contemporary interior painting. Readers can understand the inside painting snuff bottle, a gadget in the Chinese art world.



As the name suggests, the painter conducts a special hook brush to paint the inner bottle skillfully. The painting skill is derived from the traditional Chinese painting skills of years of practice. A good inside painter must lay solid Chinese painting and modelling (sketch) skills because these skills are interoperable while learning inside painting. Applying traditional Chinese painting techniques on snuff bottles requires skilful painters because of its small painting medium and the characteristics of paintings that must be painted in a reversed direction. The skill requirement for inside painters is a tall order. Based on traditional Chinese painting, the inner painter in the Qing dynasty expanded the skill to a brand-new expression. The inner painter is one of the pioneers of innovation in the field of traditional Chinese painting. In addition, the interior painter will carefully choose the carrier of the snuff bottle because the shape of the carrier and the distribution of rock crystals will affect the presentation of the picture. They are complementary to each other. However, no matter how good a medium is, it is in vain without a good painting. The suitability and interactivity of the carrier are factors that cannot be neglected when determining a masterpiece. From the above, we can see that skills and creative thinking are very strict for inside painters. The contemporary snuff bottle master, Wang Xian, once said that:


The skill of painting is a high requirement for the inside painters, and the painter also has a common characteristic: the young painters are not good at painting, and the old painters are not able to paint due to the eyesight deterioration. As a result, the barriers to entering the inner painting world are extremely extensive, which is also an obstacle for the inheritance of this handicraft.

The art of inside painting can also be applied in other mediums, such as large ornaments, glass balls, wine bottles, perfume bottles, small jewellery, etc. It is an innovative move in the snuff bottle industry. However, presently, most collectors still pay exclusive attention to "snuff bottles". The exotic mediums are not persuasive. Although some inside-painted objects are large, their value is unconvinced. Their large size does not embody the value accordingly. Few painters specialize in producing these large-scale works. The mainstream of the paintings is still the exquisite and compact snuff bottles. Undoubtedly, some collectors would like to buy some decorations and display them at home out of curiosity. Perhaps, some developments in the inside-painting industry might be prosperous one day.


A Large ornaments by Li Wenliang , a different expression of inside painting
A Large ornaments by Li Wenliang , a different expression of inside painting


A debated topic: Whether the inside painted snuff bottle a handicraft or a work of art?


There is a long-held question among collectors. Since the inner painted snuff bottles are developed based on traditional Chinese painting, Chinese painting should be regarded as art. With more than ten years of paintings and research experience, our founder Xu Liwei argues that most inside painted snuff bottles are crafts. Only a small number of inner painters can reach the level of art. Since the years of studying under Ji school, Xu Liwei observes that the majority of the current inside painters are solely improving their painting skills and copying the works of either from master or the famous painting to make their paintings look more delicate. During the process of painting, the personal sense and spirit are absent. No personal thoughts and emotions from the painting can be detected. Their works lack a soul and cannot touch people's hearts. The snuff bottle itself may be an exquisite handicraft, but it is far from the art genre. However, some outstanding inside painters have broken through the craft and can be called artists, but only a handful of them are in the field of inner painting.


An excellent inside painted snuff bottle by Zhang Rucai, a Chinese master of arts and crafts. D.D Art collection
An excellent inside painted snuff bottle by Zhang Rucai, a Chinese master of arts and crafts

The difference between those is not equal value. Regarding whether the internally painted snuff bottle is a handicraft or a work of art, we will discuss it in a detailed essay. Welcome to subscribe to us.



The current market situation:


By history Watershed, the inside painted snuff bottle can be divided into the old and the contemporary inside painting in the market. The old inside paintings include four great masters in the Qing Dynasty, Ma Shaoxuan, Ye Zhongsan, Ding Erzhong and Zhou Leyuan. The contemporary inner painting snuff bottles comprise the direct disciple headed by Master Wang Xisan , and well-known artists of the other three schools, such as Liu Shouben, Li Kechang, Wu Songling, etc., are all first-class masters who earned the title of Chinese arts and crafts issued by China authority. What is this title could be refer to this introductory article. Generally speaking, the current collectors' acceptance of old inside snuff bottles in the European and American markets is relatively high. Due to the historical nature, the old snuff bottle tends to against the devaluation. Western collectors have more recognition of the old ones. For example, the price of a work by Ma Shaoxuan's at Christie's Hong Kong auction in 2004 was sold in HK$1.7445 million. The work of Ding Erzhong in Sotheby's autumn auction in 2010 in New York was sold for US$170,500. By contrast, the marketability and value of contemporary interior-painted snuff bottles are still being verified. European and American collectors are also holding a wait-and-see attitude. The market is not yet clear. However, at present, the Chinese arts and crafts masters of contemporary painters have begun to show significant growth. For example, in 2010, Zhang Guangqing's works were sold at the Beijing Hanhai auction for 1.12 million yuan; at the same auction. Wang Xisan's works were sold for RMB 1.232 million. Modern interior-painted snuff bottles are still ongoing in a state of progress, just like conceptual art that is constantly evolving. Perhaps in the future, contemporary interior-painted snuff bottles can truly develop their path and find the niches in the market.



In conclusion:


Compared to other crafts and Chinese artworks, the inside painted snuff bottle is currently an underestimated art form, and its value is far less than that of Chinese artworks, such as Chinese ceramics and traditional Chinese paintings. If this art form were made out of masterclass painters, this artwork would start from a million US dollars at least.


By contrast, the current price of inside painted snuff bottles is deemed to be more accessible to the public. For example, the works of Ye Zhongsan, one of the four great masters of the late Qing Dynasty, is around US$8,000 at auction. In addition to the fine works, the normal works by a contemporary master, the general works cost only about 6,000 US dollars on average. It is a reasonable price range for ordinary collectors. Therefore, if Chinese art collectors are optimistic about investing, they can collect the snuff bottle since it is still at rock bottom. The value of snuff bottles has not appeared. It is regarded as a small piece of art in the Chinese art world. While satisfying one's soul, it is a suitable target to invest in. Maybe one day, there will be unexpected gains.


As the promoter of inside painted snuff bottles, D.D Art hopes to objectively discuss and share the knowledge and current situation inside painted snuff bottles. We expect that this will enable collectors to appreciate this beautiful Chinese art form and allow more collectors to enjoy this art equally with more information.