Jean Ducrollay

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.

Ducrollay was among the first of the Parisian goldsmiths to make use of Japanese lacquer, which he bought from the marchands-merciers or retailers of luxury goods. The trade in Oriental lacquer was in the hands of these middlemen of taste; prevented by guild regulations from manufacturing works of art themselves, they successfully marketed some of their goods by promoting, and probably inventing, the tabatière à cage, which, like this example, consisted of a gold frame into which panels of lacquer or other exotic material could be inserted. On this box lacquer panels with figures must have been cut from small panels of boxes or chests. Ducrollay probably obtained them from the marchand-bijoutier Lazare Duvaux from whom he purchased lacquer on several occasions between 1751 and 1755.

Snuffbox, Jean Ducrollay (French, born 1709, master 1734, recorded 1760), Gold, lacquer, enamel, French, Paris

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