Snuffbox with portrait of Louis XVI (1754–1793), King of France, Joseph Étienne Blerzy (French, active 1750–1806), Gold, enamel, diamonds; ivory, glass, French, Paris

Snuffbox with portrait of Louis XVI (1754–1793), King of France

Joseph Étienne Blerzy (French, active 1750–1806)
Miniature by Louis Marie Sicardi (French, Avignon 1743–1825 Paris)
French, Paris
Gold, enamel, diamonds; ivory, glass
1 3/8 x 3 1/4 x 2 1/2 in. (3.5 x 8.3 x 6.4cm); Miniature: oval, 1 1/4 x 1 in. (32 x 25 mm)
Metalwork-Gold and Platinum, Miniatures
Credit Line:
Bequest of Edward C. Post, 1930
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 899
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.
Signature: On miniature: Sicardy / 1780

Inscription: Engraved on inside of lid: Presented / to / Col. John Laurens • / by / Louis the 16th / A.D.1780 •

Marking: [1] crowned fleur-de-lis, two grains de remède, JEB, device a level (maker's mark); [2] PARIS in cipher (Paris charge mark for gold and small silver, 1774–80); [3] crowned italic Q (Paris warden's mark for gold, 1779–80); [4] monkey's head (Paris discharge mark for gold and small silver, 1774–80); [5] 878 (probably retailer's number)

Location of marks:
[1]–[3] inside bottom, front wall, and cover
[4], [5] on insetting rim of box
Col. John Laurens (from ca. 1781) ; John Laurens (nephew of Col. John Laurens) (until ca. 1866) (until ca. 1866; a notice, dated Baltimore, Dec. 4, 1866 and printed at a time when the box came up for sale by William Brown & Son on behalf of its owner, Mrs. Laurens, widow of one of the descendants of Col. Laurens, is in the Secretary's files. In it is described the visit to the court of France of "Colonel John Laurens of South Carolina, an aide de camp of George Washington, and special envoy from the United States to France to negotiate a loan from the French government."); Wright E. Post ; Edward C. Post (until d. 1915; bequeathed to MMA)