Chinese Inside Painted Snuff Bottles were used during the Qing Dynasty to contain powdered tobacco. Smoking tobacco was illegal during the Dynasty, but the use of snuff was allowed because the Chinese considered snuff to be a remedy for common illnesses such as colds, headaches and stomach disorders. Therefore, snuff was carried in a small bottle like other medicines. The snuff bottle is comparable to the snuff box used by Europeans.
Without doubt, the class of bottle that arouses most interest is that known as “inside painted.” These are glass bottles which have pictures and often calligraphy painted on the inside surface of the glass. These delightful scenes are only an inch or two high and are painted while manipulating the brush through the neck of the bottle maybe only a quarter inch across, and also painted in reverse. Artisans painted on their backs to make it easier to work through the narrow opening. It has been said that a skilled artist may complete a simple bottle in a week while something special may take a month or more and that the best craftsmen will produce only a few bottles in a year.
The earliest inside painted bottles are thought to have been made in the period between 1820 and 1830 as, by then, the beauty of a snuff bottle was probably more important than utilitarian considerations.