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Snuffbox

  • Place of origin:

    Dieppe (box, probably, made)
    London (miniature, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1755 (made)
    ca. 1750 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Liotard, Jean Étienne, born 1702 - died 1789 (painter)
    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Chased gold, carved ivory and glazed miniature

  • Credit Line:

    The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Museum number:

    LOAN:GILBERT.408-2008

  • Gallery location:

    Gold, Silver and Mosaics, Room 71, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries, case 8, shelf 13

Ivory carving was a speciality of Dieppe in northern France. Ships trading between France and west Africa brought large quantities of elephant ivory into the town, which was then carved into small decorative objects. By 1731, 12 master carvers and 250 workmen were recorded as active in the ivory trade.

This box is carved with a scene showing the family of the defeated Persian king Darius III kneeling before Alexander the Great. The kindness shown by Alexander to his defeated enemy became a symbol of mercy. The scene is based on a painting of 1660 by Charles le Brun. This box was probably made in Dieppe, ca.1750.

Inside the lid of the box is a portrait miniature of John, first Earl Spencer (1734-84) painted by Jean-Etienne Liotard. Liotard, a native of Geneva, worked in Paris from 1723 onward. He received a commission in 1735 for a portrait of Pope Clement XII. From Rome, he journeyed to Constantinople and remained in the Middle East for about four years before returning to Paris via Venice. In 1753, he visited England and painted the portrait of Princess of Wales. The miniature in this box was presumably executed at that time.

Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde formed one of the world’s great decorative art collections, including silver, mosaics, enamelled portrait miniatures and gold boxes. Arthur Gilbert donated his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996.

Physical description

A rectangular, gold-mounted ivory snuffbox comprising six panels of ivory. The cover carved with Darius, King of Persia, and his family before Alexander the Great. The walls of the box carved with scrolls and floral swags with birds and the base with an asymmetrical design of scrolls and flowers. The mounts are chased with waved lines and matting and a flaring thumbpiece. A miniature of John, first Earl Spencer, is mounted inside the lid. The Earl is shown facing to his right with a long light brown wig tied with white bow, and blue and white dress.

Place of Origin

Dieppe (box, probably, made)
London (miniature, made)

Date

ca. 1755 (made)
ca. 1750 (made)

Artist/maker

Liotard, Jean Étienne, born 1702 - died 1789 (painter)
Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Chased gold, carved ivory and glazed miniature

Marks and inscriptions

Engraved 'John 1st Earl Spencer painted by Jean Etienne Liotard'
On the bezel

Dimensions

Length: 8 cm, Width: 6.5 cm, Height: 3.7 cm

Object history note

Provenance: The earls Spencer, Althorp. S.J. Phillips, London.

Descriptive line

Rectangular snuffbox carved with Darius, King of Persia and family with miniature inside. Gold, ivory, glazed miniature. Box: Probably Dieppe, miniature: Jean-Etienne Liotard, 1755

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Truman, Charles.The Gilbert collection of gold boxes, Vol. I. Los Angeles (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) 1991, cat. no. 4, pp. 38-9. ISBN.0875871623
Schroder, Timothy, ed. The Gilbert Collection at the V&A. London (V&A Publishing) 2009, pl.76, p. 95. ISBN9781851775934
Coffin, Sarah and Bodo Hofstetter. Portrait Miniatures in Enamel. London: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd. in association with the Gilbert Collection, 2000. 168 p., ill. Cat. no. 35, pp. 82-83. ISBN 0856675334.
p. 269
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013

Labels and date

13. Snuffbox with John, 1st Earl Spencer
Miniature, about 1755. Box, about 1750

Swiss artist Liotard produced works in pastel, watercolour and enamel for international patrons.

Miniature: London, England; Jean-Etienne Liotard (1702–89)
Box: probably Dieppe, France
Enamel on copper, in ivory and gold box
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.408-2008 [16/11/2016]
Snuffbox with John,
1st Earl Spencer
Miniature: about 1755. Box: about 1750

Jean-Etienne Liotard produced work for important
patrons across Europe in pastel, watercolour and
enamel, and visited London several times. He enjoyed
the patronage of the Princess of Wales.

Miniature: London, England; Jean-Etienne Liotard
(1702–89)
Box: probably Dieppe, France
Enamel on copper, in ivory and gold box
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.408-2008 [2009]

Production Note

The miniature by Jean-Etienne Liotard, London, ca.1755, the box probably Dieppe, France, ca.1750. The carved scene on the cover is based on a painting of 1660 by Charles le Brun.

Materials

Gold; Ivory; Enamel; Copper; Glass

Techniques

Chasing; Carving; Painting (image-making); Enamelling

Subjects depicted

Flowers; Rocaille; Fruit

Categories

Metalwork; Containers; Portraits; Personal accessories; Enamels

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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