Tobacco jar, wood carved in form of human skull, with ivory snake crawling through ear and eye sockets, 18th century(?), Japan
Made of boxwood, this tobacco box has been skilfully carved into the shape of a human skull, with an ivory snake slithering through the ear and eye sockets. Tobacco grew in popularity across the world from the 1600s onwards, favoured for its taste, aroma and nicotine boost.
The design is similar to a memento mori, used to remind a person of the shortness of life – the health risks now associated with smoking were not really known until the middle years of the twentieth century.