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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Jewellery, Rooms 91 to 93 mezzanine, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery

Box

1776-89 (made), 1814-30 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Gold, enamel and lapis lazuli box with Paris marks for 1776-7, charge and décharge marks for 1775-81, countermark for 1780-2, restricted warranty mark for 1809-19, and the mark of Pierre-François Drais. Mounted with later paintings in watercolour on ivory, painted at a date after the restoration of the French monarchy in 1814. On the cover are Marie Antoinette and her children Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte (1778-1851), the Dauphin Louis (1781-9) and Louis-Charles, the future Louis XVII (1785-95), and a sculptured bust of Louis XVI. On the base is a painting of the Comte de Provence (Louis XVIII), the Comte d'Artois (Charles X), and Madame Elisabeth, brothers and sister of Louis XVI.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Gold, enamel and lapis lazuli, mounted with miniatures in watercolour on ivory
Brief Description
Gold, enamel and lapis lazuli box by Pierre-François Drais, Paris,1776-7, mounted with later miniatures painted after 1814.
Physical Description
Gold, enamel and lapis lazuli box with Paris marks for 1776-7, charge and décharge marks for 1775-81, countermark for 1780-2, restricted warranty mark for 1809-19, and the mark of Pierre-François Drais. Mounted with later paintings in watercolour on ivory, painted at a date after the restoration of the French monarchy in 1814. On the cover are Marie Antoinette and her children Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte (1778-1851), the Dauphin Louis (1781-9) and Louis-Charles, the future Louis XVII (1785-95), and a sculptured bust of Louis XVI. On the base is a painting of the Comte de Provence (Louis XVIII), the Comte d'Artois (Charles X), and Madame Elisabeth, brothers and sister of Louis XVI.
Dimensions
  • Base to rim box closed. height: 3.2cm
  • Across top of closed box; maximum width width: 7.5cm
  • Across centre of the underside of box; maximum width depth: 5.5cm
Gallery Label
Snuff-Box French (Paris); 1775-77. Gold, enamelled and set with lapis lazuli and miniatures under glass. Maker's mark of Pierre-François Drais (1726-1788) and Paris marks for 1775-77 with countermarks for 1781-83 and 1789. M905-1882 Length: 3 ins. 7.6 cms. Snuff-taking had been long established in France by the 18th century and the goldsmiths of Paris excelled in the production of richly decorated boxes to contain the aromatic tobacco. The boxes were not only virtually airtight, to preserve the snuff from atmospheric changes, but also balance evenly in the hand when open or closed. Consequently the making of the hinge, which in many instances is almost invisible, was considered of prime importance. The method of making this box was known as à cage, that is to say the panels of stone and miniatures were set in a cagework of gold, a method of construction that was not officially permitted before 1755, although earlier examples are recorded. The gouache miniature in the lid depicts Marie Antoinette with three of her children, the Dauphin Louis, Marie-Thérese-Charlotte and Louis-Joseph-Xavier-François. The base shows the Comte de Provence (Louis XVIII), the Comte d'Artois (Charles X) and Madame Elisabeth. The subjects of the miniatures suggest that this box was made for a member of the French Royal Family, possibly Louis XVI himself, whose marble bust is shown surveying the sitters on the cover.(1980-1981)
Credit line
Bequeathed by John Jones
Object history
A box mounted with similar miniatures is in the Rijksmuseum (BK-17159). Reinier Baarsen (see references) has shown that it is a 19th-century confection. He suggests that the miniatures on the Rijksmuseum box and the V&A box are by the same, unidentified artist working after the restoration of the monarchy in 1814. The label for the V&A box from 1980-1 in this entry records an earlier interpretation before it was appreciated that the miniatures have been mounted into an earlier box by Drais. The restricted warranty mark for 1809-19 on the V&A's box suggests that the addition of the miniatures might have taken place between the restoration of Louis XVIII in 1814 and 1819.
Bibliographic References
  • Reinier Baarsen. Paris 1650-1900: Decorative Arts in the Rijksmuseum. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, in association with the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2013, pp. 488-491.
  • Reinier Baarsen. 'Romanticism or Deceit: Some Counterfeit Eighteenth-century Parisian Gold Boxes in the Rijksmuseum', in Going for Gold: Craftsmanship and Collecting of Gold Boxes, Tessa Murdoch and Heike Zech (eds.), Sussex Academic Press, Eastbourne, 2014, pp. 198-9.
Collection
Accession Number
905-1882

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record createdMay 13, 2008
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