Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.


  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1730-1750 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wood, decorated with vernis Martin, lined with satin

  • Museum number:

    W.19 to D-1914

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This small box is fitted inside with four smaller boxes, which hold mother-of-pearl gaming counters. The ability to play cards well was considered an essential part of polite living in the 17th and 18th centuries throughout Europe. Card tables and boxes for gaming counters were luxury items and were ingeniously decorated in a variety of materials. This box and its inner boxes were decorated in vernis Martin, a French version of the varnish painting known in England as japanning. In both cases, the painting was intended to imitate Asian lacquer, although the subjects were frequently European in subject matter. On this box and the smaller ones contained within, the decoration relates loosely to a number of mythical stories. The image on the main box may show Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, whose daughter Proserpine was carried off to the underworld by Pluto. Ceres wandered the world looking for her daughter. On one occasion she was given a drink by an old woman – perhaps the one shown here.

Physical description

Of wood, decorated with vernis Martin, with mythological scenes, lined with satin

Place of Origin

France (made)


ca. 1730-1750 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Wood, decorated with vernis Martin, lined with satin


Height: 55 mm lid closed, Width: 210 mm, Depth: 180 mm

Descriptive line

Fitted with four smaller boxes for mother-of-pearl gaming counters; decorated in vernis Martin with mythological scenes, the main box possibly showing Ceres with the old woman


Wood; Vernis Martin; Satin


Cabinet-making; Japanning


Entertainment & Leisure; Games


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.