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Rare Mao-era Chinese snuff bottles to go under the hammer
A Chinese inside-painted 'Murals in the Yongle Temple' glass snuff bottle, Liu Ziyi (b. 1939) and Liu Enchang, dated 1987, AU$500 – $800. Photo: Bonhams.

SYDNEY.- Several rare Mao-era snuff bottles will be auctioned by Bonhams in Sydney later this month, part of a private collection of more than 350 exquisitely decorated bottles.

With items ranging from traditional 19th century inside-painted bottles to modern takes on historical motifs, the sizeable collection was built up by the Lumsden family of New South Wales over two decades and includes several rare and unusual pieces.

Bonhams’ Asian Art specialist, Yvett Klein, said the most unique bottles were produced during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and ‘70s and are adorned with propaganda images and slogans by Chairman Mao.

“Not many people are aware that there were artists working on inside-painted snuff bottles during the Cultural Revolution and they are a rarity on the market,” Ms Klein said.

“With the recent surge in popularity in Mao-era artworks, and strong prices achieved internationally, it will be interesting to see how bidders respond to these works.”

The Lumsden family began collecting snuff bottles in the 1980s, sourcing them from respected art dealers in Hong Kong, as well as at auction in Australia.

The bottles, which will be auctioned in 172 lots as part of Bonhams’ Asian Art sale, have very attractive reserves, from the hundreds of dollars to the low thousands.

Recent international sales results for modern snuff bottles have been impressive, with a ‘Communist Leaders’ snuff bottle achieving HK$87,500 (AU$14,417) in Hong Kong last year, while a 2009 rendering of an ‘Archaic Bronze’ motif achieved HK$750,000 (AU$123,574).


Mao-era bottles

• Lot 78: A Chinese inside-painted revolutionary-theme glass snuff bottle, dated 1967, AU$300 - $500

• Lot 83: A Chinese inside-painted revolutionary-theme glass snuff bottle with amber glass overlay, Fang Qing, dated 1968, AU$300 – $500

• Lot 84: A Chinese inside-painted revolutionary-theme glass snuff bottle, with inscription on the back from the Little Red Book on educating the next generation, Sun Jijie, dated 1968, AU$600 – $800

Other bottles
• Lot 132: 19th century master glass-overlay from Yangzhou, a town famous for coloured glass overlay over a milky body, AU$2000 – $3000

• Lot 167: A Chinese inside-painted 'Murals in the Yongle Temple' glass snuff bottle,
Liu Ziyi (b. 1939) and Liu Enchang, dated 1987, AU$500 – $800

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