Art/ Collection/ Art Object


Claude de Villers (master 1718, died 1755)
Joseph Vallayer (master 1750, died 1770)
French, Paris
Gold, mother-of-pearl, ivory, enamel
3 1/8 x 2 3/8 in. (7.9 x 6cm)
Metalwork-Gold and Platinum
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
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: On insetting rim of box: VALLAYER AUX GOBELINS; Stickers formerly inside box: [1] 15; [2] P.M. 3572

Marking: [1] crowned fleur-de-lis, CDV, device a lion's snout (maker's mark); [2] arm (Paris charge mark for gold and small silver work,1744–50); [3] crowned italic K (Paris warden's mark for gold, 1750–51); [4] salmon's head (Paris discharge mark for gold and small silver work, 1744–50); [5] man's slipper (general countermark, 1774–80); [6] clasped hands (general countermark, 1780–89).

An incomplete and illegible maker's mark is struck inside the front edge of the cover.

Location of marks:
[1] inside cover
[2], [3] inside front edge of box, inside cover, inside bottom
[4]–[6] on outside edge of box
J. Pierpont Morgan (until 1917; to MMA)
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