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Snuff box

  • Place of origin:

    Berlin (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1730 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Fromery, Pierre, born 1655 - died 1738 (maker)
    Herold, Christian Friedrich, born 1700 - died 1779 (enamel painter)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Enamelled copper, painted in enamel colours, decorated with applied stamped gold foil, mounted in engraved gilt metal

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by William Wallis Aston, Esq.

  • Museum number:

    M.109-1917

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 5, The Friends of the V&A Gallery, case CA2

In the early eighteenth century, French gold and jewelled snuff boxes were the height of fashion with the German nobility though, soon after he became King of Prussia in 1740, Frederick the Great (1712-86) restricted their import to encourage local production. Frederick himself possessed a vast snuff box collection as did statesman and Meissen porcelain factory director Count Heinrich von Brühl (1700-63). He had boxes and canes to match each of his outfits and had amassed about 700 gold boxes by the end of his life.

This snuff box of enamelled copper set in engraved gilt metal mounts was probably made in about 1730 in the Berlin workshop of French Huguenot emigré, Pierre Fromery (1655-1738), an accomplished steel-cutter, armourer, clockmaker and boxmaker. On his death, his son Alexander (1695-1775) succeeded him as an enameller, boxmaker and dealer in luxury wares (Galanteriewaren). The box is unsigned but may have been decorated by Christian Friedrich Herold (1700-79), who worked as an enamel painter at the Meissen Porcelain Factory from 1726. He learned enamelling with the Fromerys and continued to work for them over many years on his own account despite his employer's protests.

The box is painted in enamel colours with a crowned spreadeagle and 'grotesque' decoration including exotic birds, animals playing musical instruments, masks, scrollwork, canopies and flowers. This type of 'Laub- und Bandelwerk' (foliage and strapwork) decoration derives from published German engravings after French designers Jean Bérain (1640-1711), and his pupils such as Daniel Marot (1650-1712). Further ornamentation was achieved by the application of die-stamped gold foil reliefs, some partially infilled with translucent green and dark blue enamels.

Two very similar boxes are known - one in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection and the other in the Melinda and Paul Sullivan Collection, West Hartford, Connecticut. The former box is attributed to the Fromery workshop while the latter is thought to be Austrian. The latter proposal cannot be discounted as the decoration and palette of these boxes is reminiscent of Hausmaler (outside independent enameller) work on Du Paquier porcelain from Vienna.

Physical description

Enamelled copper snuff box of rectangular shape but with chamfered corners and bombé front, painted in enamel colours on a white ground and ornamented with applied stamped gold foil relief decoration, in an engraved gilt metal mount.
In the centre of the top of the lid is painted a crowned spreadeagle against a background dotted in blue, its head facing to its left (viewer's right). Its lower half is painted in natural colours; its upper half in red. It is surrounded by an applied raised gold foil scrolled cartouche with grotesque masks picked out in places in translucent green enamel. Outside this are four areas of trellis diaper ornamented with gold foil flowers, stars and dots. Further decorative motifs on the lid are exotic birds, animal masks, coloured scrolls and flowers.
The underside of the lid is painted with coloured scrolls, a pocket of flowers, and on the left an exotic bird facing a monkey on the right.
The inside of the box is painted with a floral spray and border ornament in colours.
The outer surface or bottom of the box is decorated with further masks, exotic birds, scrolls (possibly forming a cypher), fronds, and squirrels playing brass musical instruments under hanging canopies. A raised gold foil mask and scrolling picked out with translucent green and dark blue enamel and gold foil flower heads further embellish this.

Place of Origin

Berlin (probably, made)

Date

ca. 1730 (made)

Artist/maker

Fromery, Pierre, born 1655 - died 1738 (maker)
Herold, Christian Friedrich, born 1700 - died 1779 (enamel painter)

Materials and Techniques

Enamelled copper, painted in enamel colours, decorated with applied stamped gold foil, mounted in engraved gilt metal

Dimensions

Height: 32 mm, Width: 73 mm, Depth: 55 mm

Object history note

William Wallis Aston bequest
Bequeathed to the Museum by William Wallis Aston, formerly of 44 Portland Place, London W1 (RF 17/2489). Aston was Master of the Worshipful Company of Mercers in 1884. He died aged 81 on 13th May 1917, leaving four (three accepted) Flemish and Dutch oil paintings to the National Gallery and his collections of Chinese porcelain, jade and rock crystal and European snuff boxes to the V&A. Following his widow's death on 19th May 1919, the house and remaining collection were sold by Christies auction house.

Snuffboxes in Germany
In the early eighteenth century, French gold and jewelled snuffboxes were the height of fashion with the German nobility though, soon after he became King of Prussia in 1740, Frederick the Great (1712-86) restricted their import to encourage local production. Frederick himself possessed a vast snuffbox collection as did statesman and Meissen porcelain factory director Count Heinrich von Brühl (1700-63). He had boxes and canes to match each of his outfits and had amassed about 700 gold boxes by the end of his life.

Paris 'paillons' made in 1720s and 1730s
The application of die-stamped gold foil reliefs (paillons) to enamelled boxes probably developed in response to fine chasing on gold mounts, piqué work in gold and silver often over tortoiseshell, carved coloured hardstone boxes and raised gilded moulded decoration on porcelain. After the metal die itself was designed and cut, the stamping from it of foil reliefs required far less skill and time than chasing and thus was a cheaper process. Until 1777, 'paillonneurs' operated as a separate guild within the Paris goldsmith trades. One or more members of this guild are now thought to have been responsible for providing die-stampled foils, some partially infilled later by enamellers with translucent coloured enamels, for porcelain and enamels decorated in 1720s and 1730s. This decoration cannot be attributed to a single porcelain factory owing to the disparate origin of the pieces - China, Japan, Meissen (Germany) and Saint-Cloud (France). They are thus outside-decorated for sale as novel luxury-wares.

The Fromery workshop and Christian Friedrich Herold
Another class of foil-decorated enamels was produced at the Berlin workshop founded by Pierre Fromery (1655-1738). Born in Sedan, France, he was an accomplished steel-cutter, armourer, clockmaker and boxmaker. On his death, his son Alexander (1695-1775) succeeded him as an enameller, boxmaker and dealer in luxury wares (Galanteriewaren).Christian Friedrich Herold (1700-79) learned enamelling at this workshop and continued to work there even after he entered the employ of the Meissen porcelain factory in 1726. As late as 1763, Herold was accused of enamelling on his own account but claimed this work did not compete with his Meissen work. Examples of Herold's work for Alexander Fromery include V&A mus. no. C.52-1982, an enamel depicting Stanislas Leczinski's flight from Danzig to Bar in 1734, Metropolitan Museum of Art plaque mus. no. 64.101.397 (Irwin Untermyer gift, 1964), and a silver box with enamelled copper lid in the British Museum, mus.no.1958,0502.1. Fromery die-stamped foils are also to be found on an enamelled sleeve which decorates a silver-gilt beaker by Elias Adam of Augsburg, in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Herold introduced the Meissen factory to gold foil relief decoration in 1739, the British Museum cup and saucer (inv. no. Franks.71) being a signed example of his work dated 1750. A distinctive group of foil-decorated enamels of which one is signed by an unknown enameller 'J.G.V.' may also have come from the Fromery workshop.

Christoph Konrad Hunger
The name Christoph Konrad Hunger has often been associated with gold foil decoration, mainly on the strength of an overglaze signature of questionable authenticity beneath a Meissen bowl in the Österreichisches Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna. Hunger was a goldsmith, arcanist, enameller and gilder trained by Johann Melchior Dinglinger, goldsmith to Augustus the Strong in Dresden. Having worked as a gilder at the Meissen factory 1715-17, he fled with knowledge of porcelain-making to Vienna where he helped establish the Du Paquier factory. The nature and extent of any gold foil decoration that Hunger may have produced is as yet not clear.

Decoration and origin of snuffbox M.109-1917
M.109-1917 is unsigned but probably a Fromery/Herold product. Certainly the signed Herold plaque inv.no.64.101.397 from the Untermyer Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, bears similarly-painted Laub- und Bandelwerk and exotic birds. An enamel snuffbox of about 1730 in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection without doubt shares the same origin as M.109-1917 and is attributed to Fromery and Herold (cat.91, Somers Cocks and Truman, 1984). However, Ghenete Zelleke attributes another closely similar snuff box in the Melinda and Paul Sullivan Collection, West Hartford, to 'Austria, probably Vienna, ca.1730' (see fig.4:15, p.312, 'Fired by Passion: Vienna Baroque Porcelain...', vol.I, 2009). The Sullivan box uses motifs engraved and published by Johann Christoph Weigel (1654- 1725) from a drawing by Paul Decker (1677-1713). These three boxes are enamelled with grotesque designs ultimately after the work of Jean Bérain (1640-1711), architecte-dessinateur to Louis XIV. His favoured motifs, such as vases of flowers, birds, squirrels and monkeys, musical instruments, canopies, masks and strapwork and the similar work of his pupils such as Daniel Marot (1650-1712) were disseminated via published engravings. These found particular favour in Augsburg and Nuremberg where German engravers published their versions as 'Laub- und Bandelwerk' (foliage and strapwork). The possibility of an Austrian origin for the Sullivan box (and analagous V&A and Untermeyr boxes) as proposed by Zelleke cannot be discounted. The decoration and palette of these boxes is reminiscent of outside enamelling (Hausmaler work) on Du Paquier porcelain. A Du Paquier nightlight of about 1730-35 in the Stuttgart Keramik Museum echoes elements of the decoration of M.109-1917 (eagles with parti-coloured wings, flowers, baskets of flowers, raised gilt motifs and background dot pattern). Outside painters of Laub- und Bandelwerk decoration active in Vienna in about 1730 include Ignaz Bottengruber, Jacobus Helchis and Johann Carl Wendelin Anreiter von Zirnfeld.

Descriptive line

Enamel on copper painted with animals, flowers, scrolls, trellis diaper and other motifs in enamel colours and with applied gold foil relief decoration, mounted in gilt metal.

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

E.W. Braun, 'Alt-Wiener Porzellane in der Kaiserlichen Eremitage zu St. Petersburg' in Kunst und Kunsthandwerk, XVII, 1914
G.E. Pazaurek, 'Deutsche Fayence- und Porzellan- Hausmaler', Leipzig, 1925
Max Sauerlandt, 'Drei Email-Dosendecken' in Der Kunstwanderer, 1925-26
W. Holzhausen, 'Email mit Goldauflage in Berlin und Meissen nach 1700', in Der Kunstwanderer, Berlin 1930-31
W.B. Honey, 'European Ceramic Art', London 1952
Franz-Adrian Dreier in Jahrbuch der Hamburger Kunstsammlungen, vol.III, 1958
Hugh Tait, 'Herold and Hunger' in British Museum Quarterly XXV, 1962
Ruth Berges, 'K.C. Hunger: Itinerant Enameller Extraordinary', in Connoisseur, November 1966
Charles Truman, 'Acquisitions in the Department of Ceramics at the Victoria and Albert Museum 1981-82', in Burlington Magazine, vol.35, May 1983
Anna Somers Cocks and Charles Truman, 'The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection: Renaissance jewels, gold boxes and objets de vertu', London, 1984
Hannelore Müller, 'The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection: European Silver', London, 1986
Anna Somers Cocks, Elizabeth Nagy, Maria de Peverelli, 'Gold and Silver Treasures from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection', 1987
Aileen Dawson, 'Gold foil decoration on enamel, glass and porcelain: a new look' in Burlington Magazine, vol.132, May 1990
Aileen Dawson, 'A catalogue of French porcelain in the British Museum', London, 1994
Bertrand Rondot (ed.), 'Discovering the secrets of soft-paste porcelain at the Saint-Cloud Manufactory ca.1690-1766', Bard Graduate Center, New York, 1999
Ulrike Weinhold, 'Emailerei an Augsburger Goldschmiede arbeiten von 1650 bis 1750', Munich/Berlin, 2000
'Baroque Luxury Porcelain', Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna, 2005
Haydn Williams (ed.), 'Enamels of the World 1700-2000: The Khalili Collections', 2009
Meredith Chilton et al., 'Fired by Passion: Vienna Baroque Porcelain of Claudius Innocentius du Paquier', vol.I, Melinda and Paul Sullivan Foundation for the Decorative Arts, Hartford, and Arnoldsche Art Publishers, Stuttgart, 2009
Errol Manners, 'Gold decoration on French, German and Oriental porcelain in the early 18th century' in Journal of the French Porcelain Society, vol.IV, 2011
Highlights of the Untermyer Collection of English and Continental Decorative Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1977

Materials

Copper; Gold; Gilt metal

Techniques

Enamelled; Stamped; Engraved

Subjects depicted

Stylised birds; Monkey; Masks; Musical instruments; Eagle; Squirrels

Categories

Enamels

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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