Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Snuffbox

Maker:
Possibly by Joseph Vallayer (master 1750, died 1770)
Date:
1750–51
Culture:
French, Paris
Medium:
Gold, enamel
Dimensions:
1 5/8 x 3 1/4 in. (4.1 x 8.3cm)
Classification:
Metalwork-Gold and Platinum
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
17.190.1233
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: Sticker inside box: 2430

Marking: [1] Partially effaced maker's mark, of which a crowned fleur-de-lis, two grains de remède and the initial J are visible; [2] ox's head (Paris charge mark for gold and small silver work, 1750–56); [3] crowned italic K (Paris warden's mark for gold, 1750–51); [4] hen's head (Paris discharge mark for small gold and silver, 1750–56).

Location of marks:
[1] inside rim of box, inside cover
[2], [3] inside cover
[4] on outside edge of cover
J. Pierpont Morgan (until 1917; to MMA)
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