Snuffbox with portrait of a woman, Joseph Étienne Blerzy (French, active 1750–1806), Gold, enamel, ivory, glass, French, Paris

Snuffbox with portrait of a woman

Joseph Étienne Blerzy (French, active 1750–1806)
Miniature attributed to François Dumont (French, Lunéville 1751–1831 Paris)
1773–74, miniature ca. 1778–80
French, Paris
Gold, enamel, ivory, glass
Box: 3 1/4 × 2 7/16 in. (8.3 × 6.2 cm); Miniature, sight: 1 5/8 × 1 5/16 in. (4.1 × 3.3 cm)
Metalwork-Gold and Platinum, Miniatures
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 545
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 fleur-de-lis, two grains de remède, J E B, device a level (maker's mark); [2] rosette of fleurons (Paris chargemark for gold and small silver, 1768–74); [3] crowned K (warden's mark for gold, 1773–74); [4] little cow (Paris dishcharge mark for work intended for export, 1765–1774[?]).
J. Pierpont Morgan , London and New York (until 1917; to MMA)