Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Snuffbox with miniature of Hercules, Omphale and Cupid

Maker:
Joseph Étienne Blerzy (French, active 1750–1806)
Date:
1789–90
Culture:
French, Paris
Medium:
Gold, enamel
Dimensions:
Overall: 1 1/8 × 3 1/4 × 2 1/2 in. (2.9 × 8.3 × 6.4 cm)
Classifications:
Metalwork-Gold and Platinum, Miniatures
Credit Line:
Bequest of Catherine D. Wentworth, 1948
Accession Number:
48.187.455
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 flleur-de-lis, 2 grains de remède, JEB, device a level (maker's mark for Joseph Étienne Blerzy)
[2] A in lattice circle (Paris charge mark, 1789)
[3] crowned P, 89 (Paris warden's mark for gold and small silver work, 1789–90)
[4] ewer (Paris mark for work intended for export, 1789)
[5] eagle's head, double outline (Paris mark for gold, restricted warranty, 1847 to date);
[6] 136 (probably retailer's number)

Location of marks:
[1]–[3] inside bottom, wall and cover
[4]–[6] on insetting rim of box, [5] struck twice
Catherine D. Wentworth (until 1948; bequeathed to MMA)
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