Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Snuffbox

Maker:
Robert Joseph Auguste (French, 1723–1805, master 1757)
Date:
1766–67
Culture:
French, Paris
Medium:
Gold
Dimensions:
1 1/2 x 2 3/4 x 2 1/8 in. (3.8 x 7 x 5.4cm)
Classification:
Metalwork-Gold and Platinum
Credit Line:
Gift of Handy and Harman, 1965
Accession Number:
65.255
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: Engraved along front rim of box: Auguste F. à Paris; Scratched next to inscription: 51

Marking: [1] crowned fleur-de-lis, two grains de remède, RJA, device a palm branch (maker's mark); [2] crossed laurel branches (Paris charge mark for gold and small silver work, 1762–68); [3] crowned C (Paris warden's mark, 1766–67); [4] hound's head (Paris discharge mark for gold and small silver work, 1762–68); [5] hunting horn (Paris countermark, 1768–74); [6] man's slipper (Paris countermark, 1774–80); [7] clasped hands (General countermark, 1780–82); [8] dolphin's head (Paris countermark 1782–89); [9] ET in rectangle (French mark for gold and silver imported from countries without customs conventions [1864–1893])

Location of marks:
[1]-[3]: inside cover, inside bottom, on insetting rim of box
[4]-[9]: on insetting rim of box, [9] struck twice
Monsieur de Lafaulotte (until 1886; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, April 5–13, 1886, lot 415); Handy and Harman (through Mr. M.W. Townsend, President; until 1965; to MMA)
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