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By Imperial Design

This article discusses a set of watercolour paintings of snuff bottles. Executed on thin Chinese paper, they are possibly the earliest such depictions known, and were probably produced in the 18th century in the Ruyi guan, which was located in the Yuanming yuan and functioned as a private painting and design studio for the palace workshops. That they were courtly paintings and prepared by a European is suggested by various features, including their imperial stoppers and their complex, somewhat impractical designs. The author concludes that the paintings are in fact designs for snuff bottles never made rather than portraits of snuff bottles already in existence.
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November/December 2019
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