Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Snuffbox

Date:
1784–86
Culture:
French, Paris
Medium:
Gold, agate, enamel
Dimensions:
7/8 x 2 3/4 x 2 1/8 in. (2.2 x 7 x 5.4cm)
Classification:
Metalwork-Gilt Bronze
Credit Line:
The Moses Lazarus Collection, Gift of Josephine and Sarah Lazarus, in memory of their father, 1888-95
Accession Number:
95.14.37
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.
Inscription: Engraved on insetting rim of box: 121

Marking: [1] crowned fleur-de-lis, two grains de remède, the rest illegible (maker's mark); [2] interlaced L's (Paris charge mark for gold and small silver work, 1782–89); [3] crowned italic P with 84 (Paris warden's mark for gold, 1784–85); [4] crowned italic P with 85 (Paris warden's mark for gold, 1785–86); [5] plover's head (Paris discharge mark for small gold and silver, 1782–89); [6] fly (Paris countermark, 1789–92); [7] eagle's head in single outline (Paris restricted warranty mark for gold, 1838–47).

Location of marks:
[1], [2]: inside bottom, front wall, cover and rim near hinge
[3]: on inside of rim near hinge
[4]: inside bottom, front wall and cover
[5]–[7]: on insetting rim of box, [7] struck twice
by descent, Josephine and Sarah Lazarus , New York (1885–95; to MMA)
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