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Medium:Gold and enamel
Dimensions:H. 3.5 cm, L. 7.9 cm, D. 6 cm
Credit Line:Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
The maker’s mark of this box purports to be that of Melchior René Hallé (or Hallet) (active 1737 – 54),(1) and the remaining marks closely resemble the warden’s mark for 1749 – 50 and the Paris charge and discharge marks of 1744 – 50. The superficial appearance of the box and its marks, and the location of the marks, are compatible with Parisian work of the late 1740s and with other boxes struck with the same maker’s mark. However, several further aspects argue against an eighteenth-century date for this box. Hallé received his training at the Hôtel des Gobelins under the box maker Claude de Villers, obtained his mastership by privilege in 1737, and remained at the Gobelins until his death, when he was described as orfèvre ordinaire du roi. Despite the length of his career and his position as a royal goldsmith, only five boxes with his mark have been recorded.(2) Three, decorated with basse-taille enamel in intense colors on textured grounds and given dates of 1749 – 50, are problematic. The consistency exhibited by these three boxes could be cited as evidence of Hallé’s personal style, but it does not compare favorably with similar work of the same period by other makers. The colors are exceptionally brilliant, and the enameling itself in unnaturally good condition. A fairly considerable loss of enamel, both translucent and opaque, is to be expected in mid-century boxes, but the boxes attributed to Hallé are virtually undamaged and unworn. Further causes for hesitation regarding the Lehman box are the mechanical angularity of the chasing of the ground pattern and the manner in which it changes direction and rhythm to accommodate the enameled areas, and a highly uncharacteristic break in the enameling between cover and body that disrupts the fluency of the composition.
Catalogue entry from Claire Le Corbeiller. The Robert Collection. Decorative Arts, Volume XV. Wolfram Koeppe, et al. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Princeton University Press, 2012, pp. 161-62.
NOTES: 1. Charles Truman provides the name as “Michel-Robert Hallé (or Hallet).” 2. An all-gold box of 1746 – 47 in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (Kenneth A. Snowman, Eighteenth Century Gold Boxes of Europe, London, 1966, pl. 194); one enameled with exotic birds dated 1750 – 52, but with a Roman date letter, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (m. 115 –1917; Snowman 1966, pls. 290, 291); sale, Christie’s, New York, 5 October 1979, lot 257; sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 24 October 1979, lot 148 (formerly Wrightsman collection); the present work. See also the undoubtedly authentic box of the same type as the Lehman box, made in 1752 by Hallé’s former apprentice Jean-Simon Huguet (Serge Grandjean, Catalogue des tabatières, boîtes et étuis des XVIIIe et XIXe siècles du Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1981, no. 129).
Marking: Marks:(1) Inside the cover, the base, and the left wall: 1. Possibly the maker’s mark of Michel-Robert Hallé (or Hallet), a crowned fleur-de-lis, two grains de remède, MRH, device a sun,(2) or possibly a mark imitating that maker’s mark 2. An arm, possibly the charge mark for gold and small silver, Paris, 1744 – 50,(3) or possibly a mark imitating that charge mark 3. An italic I , possibly the warden’s mark for gold and small silver, Paris, 1749 – 50,(4) or a mark imitating that warden’s mark
On the left bezel: 4. A salmon’s head, possibly the discharge mark for gold and small silver, Paris, 1744 – 50,(5) or a mark imitating that discharge mark
NOTES: 1. Certain marks have been interpreted by Charles Truman. 2. Nocq, Henry. Le poinçon de Paris: Répertoire des maîtresorfèvres de la juridiction de Paris depuis le Moyen-Âge jusqu’à la fin du XVIIIe siècle. 5 vols. Paris, 1926 – 31, vol. 2, p. 303. 3. Bimbenet-Privat, Michèle, and Gabriel de Fontaines. 1995 La datation de l’orfèvrerie parisienne sous l’Ancien Régime: Poinçons de jurande et poinçons de la Marque, 1507 – 1792. Paris, 1995, no. 395. 4. Ibid., no. 408. 5. Ibid., no. 397.
Robert Lehman, New York
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