Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Snuffbox

Maker:
Pierre-François-Mathis de Beaulieu (apprenticed 1752, master 1768, active until 1792)
Date:
1776–77
Culture:
French, Paris
Medium:
Gold, enamel
Dimensions:
3 1/8 x 2 1/4 in. (7.9 x 5.7cm)
Classification:
Metalwork-Gold and Platinum
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
17.190.1179
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 530
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.
Inscription: Inscribed on rim: Ve George Beaulieu a Paris

Marking: [1] crowned fleur-de-lis, two grains de remède, PMB, device a star (maker's mark); [2] PARIS in cipher (Paris charge mark for gold and small silver, 1774–80); [3] crowned italic N (warden's mark, 1776–77); [4] monkey's head (Paris discharge mark for gold and small silver, 1774–80); [5] 20.B in shaped rectangle (Prague standard mark for 20 carat gold, 1806–07); [6] 346 (probably retailer's number).

Location of marks:
[1]–[3] inside bottom, cover, front wall, and insetting rim
[4]–[6] on insetting rim of box
J. Pierpont Morgan (until 1917; to MMA)
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