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Snuff grater

Snuff grater

  • Place of origin:

    France (probably Dieppe, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1750 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory

  • Credit Line:

    Given by J.H. Fitzhenry, Esq.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This carved ivory snuff grater, made in about 1750 in France, probably Dieppe, depicts Cupid standing between two serpents and holding a dove in his left hand. On the cover a peacock stands between an open and closed flower.
A snuff rasp was used like a nutmeg grater for grating dried tobacco into snuff. A perforated metal section was fixed inside the ivory cover for grating. Snuff taking was a popular pastime in France for the wealthy and fashionable. There was the rumour that a regular dose of snuff would protect against the plague. The tobacco was grated from the solid tobacco roll known as a "carotte".
The ivory carving on these rasps is often rather crude, while the subjects depicted, often mythological figures, or exotic ladies, are typical of decorative objects made from a rare and costly material to be sold as luxury good.

Physical description

Snuff-grater, carved ivory. A shallow trough narrowing towards one end, where it communicates by a hole with the inside of a cockle-shell carved in the round; at the other end a partition (in which is a hole closed by a tiny sliding door, now missing) forms a small shaped compartment to hold tobacco; this is closed by the loose flat cover. The trough has a narrow ridge down the cnetre and its edges are grooved to hold the metal grater (missing). On the other side is carved a symmetrical design of scrolling foliage and flowers, amid which, between two serpents, stands a Cupid holdinga dove in his raised left hand; above is a basket of flowers and fruit. On the cover is carved a peacock in his pride between an open and closed flower; above is a human face with rays representing the sun.

Place of Origin

France (probably Dieppe, made)


ca. 1750 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory


Height: 20 cm, Width: 2.375 in

Object history note

Given by J.H. Fitzhenry Esq., 25 Queen Anne’s Gate, London S.W. in 1902.

Descriptive line

Snuff grater, ivory, depicting Cupid between two serpents holding a dove, France (probably Dieppe), ca. 1750

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

List of Works of Art acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum during the Year 1902 arranged according to the Dates of Acquisition. London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office. Wyman and Sons, 1906, p. 315
Longhurst, Margaret, H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. I London: The Board of Education, 1929, p. 80
p. 386
Havard, H., ‘La Petite Curiosité. Les “Grivoises”, rapes à tabac’. In: La Revue de l’Art, XXXII, 1912
pp. 414, 415
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, pp. 414, 415, cat. no. 418





Subjects depicted

Scrollwork; Peacock; Doves; Serpents (animals)


Sculpture; Accessories; Personal accessories; Smoking accessories


Sculpture Collection

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