Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Snuffbox with miniature depicting a classical subject

Maker:
Joseph Étienne Blerzy (French, active 1750–1806)
Date:
1784–85
Culture:
French, Paris
Medium:
Gold, enamel
Dimensions:
3 3/8 × 2 1/2 in. (8.6 × 6.4 cm)
Classifications:
Metalwork-Gold and Platinum, Miniatures
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
17.190.1155
Not on view
In eighteenth-century Europe, Paris led the production of high-quality luxury goods. Parisian goldsmiths made a wide range of small, personal articles such as snuffboxes; étuis to hold sealing wax, tweezers, or utensils for sewing; souvenirs, which contained thin ivory tablets for note taking; and shuttles for knotting lace. Gold snuffboxes and boxes decorated with portrait miniatures were prized and frequently given as royal gifts, often to ambassadors or members of the court in lieu of cash payments for their services. Coveted and admired, these boxes were produced from a variety of materials. The best were skillfully made of gold and embellished with diamonds, enameled decoration, lacquer, and other luxurious materials. By the middle of the century, the taking of snuff had become an entrenched social ritual, and the snuffbox, too, had become an important social prop. Snuffboxes were considered highly fashionable accessories, with some merchants advertising new boxes with each change of season. The popularity of snuffboxes extended to all levels of society, and for those who could not afford gold, boxes were produced in less expensive materials such as silver, tortoiseshell, porcelain, or domestically produced lacquer.
Marking: [1] crowned fleur-de-lis, two grains de remède, J E B, device a level (maker's mark for Joseph Étienne Blerzy)
[2] interlaced L's (Paris charge mark for gold and small silver, 1782–89)
[3] crowned italic P and 84 (Paris warden's mark for gold, 1784–85)
[4] plover's head (Paris discharge mark for small gold and silver, 1782–89)
[5] 538 (probably retailer's number).

Location of marks:
[1]–[3] inside bottom, front wall and cover
[4], [5] on insetting rim of box
J. Pierpont Morgan (until 1917; to MMA)
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