The story behind Snuff Bottles From the Qing Dynasty by Maaike Canne

Maaike Canne is an illustrator and visual artist based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, who has collaborated with clients including The New Yorker, Apple, The Atlantic, Pinterest, Die Zeit and Architectural Digest. She’s known for work that exhibits a thoughtful, surreal quality, and is influenced by architecture, design, nature and history.

For Creative Boom, Maaike has created an exclusive print called Snuff Bottles From the Qing Dynasty. This piece shows four snuff bottles in bright, colourful compositions, and is available exclusively from the Creative Boom Shop.

“Smoking tobacco was illegal during the Qing Dynasty,” explains Maaike. “But the use of snuff was allowed because the Chinese considered it to be a remedy for common illnesses such as colds, headaches and stomach disorders. The bottles were typically decorated with paintings or carvings, which distinguished those of different quality and value. Some were regarded as objects of high value, exchanged to mark social ties or presented as gifts from the imperial court.”

Consequently, there’s a lot of symbolism and meaning in the pictures portrayed on snuff bottles, and Maaike’s four contemporary designs follow in that tradition.

Snuff Bottles From The Qing Dynasty by Maaike Canne

One, for example, depicts a monkey riding a horse. “This is one of the more popular depictions of the rise to power,” Maaike explains. “The horse is a symbol of power, strength, and loyalty. The monkey adds a touch of cleverness and flexibility. Together, the two become symbols of a quick promotion and are used by those seeking a career promotion. Here’s where my title for this bottle design comes in: ‘Thick as thieves’. I like the storyline of the monkey and horse becoming best friends.”

More broadly, Maaike likes the idea that her artwork will get people more interested in history. “For me as a European, Asian history catches my attention in particular because it’s so different from my own culture and traditions,” she says. “I think it’s super-interesting to learn about different cultures. It allows you to understand the world better, creates cultural awareness and acceptance, and also gives you the chance to rethink any assumptions you have had about your own practices and daily life.”

Snuff Bottles From the Qing Dynasty by Maaike Canne is available exclusively via Creative Boom, along with our debut series of prints.

Snuff Bottles From The Qing Dynasty by Maaike Canne

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