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  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1772-73 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Drais, Pierre-François, born 1726 - died 1788 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Chased, engraved and enamelled gold, glass

  • Credit Line:

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

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Gold, Silver and Mosaics, Room 72, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries, case 2, shelf 7

Pierre-François Drais was the pupil and cousin of the famous goldsmith Jean Ducrollay. In 1786, he entered into partnership with Charles Ouizille. An album of designs from Ducrollay's workshop, including designs used by Drais and Ouizille is now in the collection of the V&A (museum no. E.897-1988). In 1770, Drais supplied 4800 livres of presents to be distributed at the marriage of the future Louis XVI to Marie-Antoinette.

The chasing of the mythological scenes has been attributed by Charles Truman to Gérard Debèche fils. Debèche appears in the court records, bailed out by his father who was also a gold chaser, for an episode of juvenile excess, taunting a chemist with an enema, throwing stones and breaking a gold-mounted tortoiseshell box. A Gérard Debèche, possibly the chaser of this box, is recorded as working with Drais on a gold box for the corbeille de mariage of Marie-Antoinette. It was supplied for 6000 livres but he had to reduce his price to 4800, despite his protestations about the quality of the work.

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, varicoloured-gold and enamel snuffbox with canted corners, set with six oval panels of gold, chased in relief on a sablé ground. The panel on the cover depicts young girls and putti sacrificing to a herm of Priapus; that on the base, Venus riding on a dolphin, attended by putti; the walls with Venus or a nymph, Pan and putti. Each panel is bordered by acanthus and set under glass, framed by gold strapwork and surrounded by panels of green basse taille enamel over engraved scrolling foliage, with pellet and stylized-leaf border. The walls are divided by eight pilasters hung with swags; the rim of the lid is decorated with interlaced laurels.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)


1772-73 (made)


Drais, Pierre-François, born 1726 - died 1788 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Chased, engraved and enamelled gold, glass

Marks and inscriptions

Mark of Pierre-François Drais
In the lid, in the base, and in the front wall

Marks for Paris ca. 1772-1773
In the lid, in the base, in the front wall, and on the left side of the bezel

On the bezel


Length: 8 cm, Width: 4 cm, Height: 3.5 cm

Object history note

Provenance: Baron P.P. Dournovo, Saint Petersburg. Ball and Graupe, Berlin, lot 99 (anonymous sale by the Soviet government), September 24, 1930. Sotheby's, Zurich, lot 101, November 7, 1975. British Rail Pension Fund, sale, Sotheby's, Geneva, lot 32, May 15, 1990. S.J. Phillips, London.

Descriptive line

Snuffbox with mythological scenes. Gold, enamel, glass. Pierre-François Drais, Paris, 1772-73

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

Prachoff, Adrien. L'album de l'exposition retrospective d'objects d'art de 1904 à St. Petersbourg, 1907, pp. 205-7, fig. 103.
Watson, Francis J.B. 'A Gold Box Signed by Gérard Débèche'. The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 110, February, 1968, pp. 90-93.
Watson, Francis J.B. 'A Footnote on the Débèche Family'. The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 110, April, 1968, p. 219.
Somers Cocks, Anne and Charles Truman. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection: Renaissance Jewels, Gold Boxes, and Objects de Vertu. New York, 1984, pp. 29-30, fig. 13.
Snowman, A. Kenneth. Eighteenth century gold boxes of Europe, rev. ed., Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 1990, pls. 443-44, p.162. ISBN.1851490728
Truman, Charles.The Gilbert collection of gold boxes, Vol. I. Los Angeles (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) 1991, cat. no. 27, pp. 92-6. ISBN.0875871623
Watson, Francis J.B. The Wrightsman Collection, Volume III: Furniture, Gold Boxes. New York, 1970, p. 166.
Zech, Heike. Gold Boxes. Masterpieces from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection. London: V&A Publishing, 2015, pp. 58-59, no. 14. ISBN 987-1-85177-840-9

Labels and date

7. Snuffbox with mythological scenes

Paris, France; mark of Pierre-François Drais (active 1763–88), chasing probably by Gérard Debèche fils (active 1740s–70s)
Gold, enamel and glass
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.371-2008 [16/11/2016]
Snuffbox with mythological scenes

Paris, France; mark of Pierre-François Drais (active 1763–88),
chasing probably by Gérard Debèche fils (active 1740s–70s)
Gold, enamel and glass
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.371-2008 [2009]


Gold; Enamel; Glass


Chasing; Engraving (incising); Basse-taille; Enamelling

Subjects depicted

Putti; Swags; Dolphin; Classicism; Strapwork; Pilasters; Laurel; Acanthus


Metalwork; Containers; Personal accessories; Myths & Legends; Enamels


Metalwork Collection

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