A realgar glass snuff bottle

18th century

the slender ovoid bottle with wide mouth and concave oval foot, the slightly swirled ochre-yellow glass evenly applied with deep red splashes, two elongated splashes covering the narrow sides, stained bone stopper

height 6.6 cm without stopper

from a Dutch private collection acquired prior to the 1980’s

The fine quality and the wide mouth of this bottle suggest that it was made at the imperial workshops. The outlined splashes are particularly attractive, both for their colour and for their even application. For a similar example, see Helen White ‘Snuff Bottles from China, The Victoria and Albert Museum Collection’, London, 1992, pls. 63-5.

Realgar is a toxic arsenic compound which tends to disintegrate to a powder when exposed to air and moisture, which is why imitation-realgar glassware became popular for the production of snuff bottles starting from the eighteenth century.

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