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Wooden snuff box, Europe, 1701-1900

  • Science Museum, London
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Credit: Wooden snuff box, Europe, 1701-1900. Science Museum, London. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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These four skulls, labelled ‘“A Beggar”, ‘“A Witch”, “A King” and “A Beauty”, are common designs found on snuff boxes. The illustration represents Death as a social leveller, meaning that it will come to all people regardless of their social status, wealth or beauty. One theory suggests that the design is based on a Greek urn featuring images of skeletons with a passer by being asked if they can tell whether the living person was beautiful or ugly. Snuff is powdered tobacco that was snorted or rubbed on to the gums and well-liked for its aroma, taste and nicotine boost. It was also believed to ward off colds and be good for ear, nose and throat problems and snoring. maker: Unknown maker Place made: Europe

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