Table snuffbox

Artist: Niello scenes after a print entitled Naufrage (Shipwreck) by Jacques de Lajoüe (French, Paris 1686–1761 Paris) , published in Paris 1736

Date: ca. 1745–50

Culture: Russian, probably Velikiy Ustyug

Medium: Shell; gilded, matted, punched, and engraved silver; niello

Dimensions: 2 1/4 × 4 1/8 × 2 1/2 in. (5.7 × 10.5 × 6.4 cm)

Classification: Metalwork-Silver In Combination

Credit Line: Purchase, Bequest of Emma A. Sheafer, by exchange, and Rogers Fund, 1995

Accession Number: 1995.327


The niello, a preeminently important Russian technique of decorating silver, follows the print Naufrage by Jacques de Lajoue (1687–1761), published in Paris in 1736 and integrated into a pattern book. A copy was in Catherine's extensive library. The exuberant wave and shell-like rocaille formations perfectly illustrate the Central European Rococo style, referring to the turban snail's origins in the exotic Indo-Pacific Ocean. Related turban-snail cases bearing Chinese inscriptions document that they were imported into Russia from China, where they originally served as ceremonial wine cups.