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Snuffbox

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (mounts, made)
    Meissen (box, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1760 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Enamelled porcelain and chased gold

  • Credit Line:

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

  • Museum number:

    LOAN:GILBERT.493-2008

  • Gallery location:

    Gold, Silver and Mosaics, Room 72, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries, case 8, shelf 8

The paintings of French Rococo artist Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) influenced these German scenes of lovers and musicians. The copper-oxide green enamel, which is the main decorative paint colour for the box, was developed at Meissen in about 1745.

Snuffboxes made out of porcelain followed the shapes of those made in gold and hardstones. Painted scenes or portraits ornamented the sides, covers and interiors. Changing forms and decoration were important, as these fashion accessories might be chosen to match the season or a particular costume. Most European (though rarely English) porcelain factories made snuffboxes. The largest producer was Meissen in Germany, which manufactured vast quantities of boxes from about 1735-65. A price list of 1765 mentions 11 varieties, the cheapest painted with flowers. The mounts for this box were also made in Germany.

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 hard-paste porcelain snuffbox, the cover, walls and base with moulded scrolling cartouches and painted in predominantly green enamel colours on each surface with single figures or couples in fanciful garden landscapes. The interior of the lid is enamelled with a lady and a gentleman dancing in a garden to the music of a lutist and harpist; a temple, a pergola and a fountain are visible in the background. The rim is painted with swags and flowers, and is mounted in waved gold.

Place of Origin

Germany (mounts, made)
Meissen (box, made)

Date

ca. 1760 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Enamelled porcelain and chased gold

Dimensions

Height: 3.4 cm, Width: 6.7 cm, Depth: 5.1 cm, Weight: 120 g

Object history note

Provenance: S.J. Phillips, London.

Descriptive line

A rectangular gold-mounted porcelain snuffbox, the painting predominantly green, the sides, base and cover with a couple in a landscaped garden.

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. 90, pp. 267-9. ISBN.0875871623

Labels and date

8. Snuffbox with lovers and musicians
About 1760

The idyllic scenes of lovers first introduced in the late 1730s remained a signature style at Meissen into the 1760s when this box was made. So-called ‘Watteau painters’ at the factory specialised in this type of decoration.

Box: Meissen, Germany
Mounts: Germany
Hard-paste porcelain, enamel colours and gold
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.493-2008 [16/11/2016]
Snuffbox with lovers and musicians
About 1760
The paintings of French artist Antoine Watteau (1684–1721) influenced these German scenes of lovers and musicians. The copper-oxide green enamel forming the main decorative paint colour for the box was developed at Meissen in about 1745.
Box: Meissen, Germany
Mounts: Germany
Hard-paste porcelain, enamel colours and gold
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.493-2008 [2009]

Materials

Porcelain; Enamel; Gold

Techniques

Chasing; Enamelling

Subjects depicted

Landscape garden; Musicians; Figure male; Figure female

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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