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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
Not currently on display at the V&A
On short term loan out for exhibition

Snuffbox

ca. 1765 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This box forms part of the group of snuffboxes associated with Frederick II, the Great of Prussia. The chrysoprase body was carved from a single stone and richly set with hardstones and diamonds. Chrysoprase was a particular favourite of Frederick. It was mined in Silesia, the first territory which he added to Prussia by conquest in 1740. In his final illness, specimens of polished and rough chrysoprase, as well as his jewels and boxes, were laid out for him to see. The diamonds have been coloured by being set over pale pink, green and lemon yellow metal foils.

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.
visit V&A trail: Out in the museum Until recently, the lives of LGBTQ people (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) were largely invisible, or untold in museums. Selected by our LGBTQ Working Group and LGBTQ Volunteer Tour Guides, the objects in this trail reveal stories of diverse gender and sexual identities across ...
object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Carved chrysoprase, chased, pierced and engraved gold, set hardstones and diamonds with foil backing
Brief Description
Oval green chrysoprase snuffbox associated with Frederick the Great. Chrysoprase, gold, hardstones and foiled diamonds. Berlin, Germany, about 1765.
Physical Description
An oval, jewelled, gold-mounted green hardstone snuffbox, the chrysoprase body carved from a single piece of stone, mounted in gold, and set with a broad band of scrolls and flowers in diamonds set in gold over pale pink, green and lemon-yellow foil, four larger cushion-cut diamonds set over pale pink foils at the front, back and on either side along the border of the lid, four slightly smaller cushion-cut diamonds also over pink foils set equidistant in the border between the larger stones. The base similarly encrusted with a spray of flowers and scrolls, the hinged lid mounted in varicoloured gold chased with flowers and scrolls and set with a profusion of foiled diamond flowers, hardstone sprays, and a scrolling gem set trellis. The interior of the lid is bordered by gold pierced and engraved with flowers and scrolls.
Dimensions
  • Length: 10cm
  • Width: 7.8cm
  • Height: 5cm
Gallery Label
  • 4. Chrysoprase table snuffbox About 1765 Chrysoprase was a particular favourite of Frederick the Great. It was mined in Silesia, the first territory he conquered in 1740. Towards the end of Frederick’s life, specimens of polished and rough chrysoprase, as well as his jewels and boxes, were laid out on his sickbed for him to see. Berlin, Germany Chrysoprase, gold, diamonds, carnelians and foil Formerly in the collection of the Prussian empress Auguste Viktoria (1858–1921), wife of Wilhelm II, and their son, Prince Oskar von Preussen Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.412-2008(16/11/2016)
  • Chrysoprase snuffbox About 1765 Chrysoprase was a particular favourite of Frederick the Great. It was mined in Silesia, the first territory which he added to Prussia by conquest in 1740. In his final illness, specimens of polished and rough chrysoprase, as well as his jewels and boxes, were laid out for him to see. The diamonds have been coloured by being set over pale pink, green and lemon yellow metal foils. Berlin, Germany Chrysoprase, gold, diamonds, carnelians and foil Formerly in the collections of the Prussian empress Auguste Viktoria (1858–1921), wife of Wilhelm II, and their son, Prince Oskar von Preussen Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.412-2008(2009)
Credit line
The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Object history
Provenance: Empress Augusta Victoria (1858–1921), consort of Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany; their son, Prince Oskar of Prussia; Christie's, Geneva, lot. 44, November 11, 1986; S. J. Phillips, London, 1986.



Historical significance: Frederick the Great (1712-86), made Prussia a major European power. A highly cultivated admirer of the arts, the king was himself a gifted musician, composer and linguist. Frederick's taste in elegant boxes was shaped by his mother Sophia-Dorothea, who had an extensive collection. He carried a box at all times: one saved his life by deflecting a Russian bullet during the Battle of Künersdorf (1759).



As Crown Prince, Frederick visited a goldsmith's workshop to learn the secrets of the art. When he became king in 1740, he immediately decreed a ban on the import of French gold boxes 'for the good of Berlin's goldsmiths'.



He summoned goldsmiths to his palace at Potsdam to discuss their work and even provided them with his own drawings. Each year when Frederick moved to Berlin for the carnival, he had some of his boxes carefully transported on the back of a camel.
Historical context
Chrysoprase was, allegedly, a particular favourite of Frederick the Great. It was mined in Silesia, the first territory which he added to Prussia by conquest in 1740. In his final illness, specimens of polished and rough chrysoprase, as well as his jewels and boxes, were laid out for him to see.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This box forms part of the group of snuffboxes associated with Frederick II, the Great of Prussia. The chrysoprase body was carved from a single stone and richly set with hardstones and diamonds. Chrysoprase was a particular favourite of Frederick. It was mined in Silesia, the first territory which he added to Prussia by conquest in 1740. In his final illness, specimens of polished and rough chrysoprase, as well as his jewels and boxes, were laid out for him to see. The diamonds have been coloured by being set over pale pink, green and lemon yellow metal foils.



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.
Bibliographic References
  • Seidel, Paul. 'Die Prunkdosen Friedrichs des Grossen', Das Hohenzollern Jahrbuch, vol. 5. Berlin: Leipzig Verlag von Giesecke & Devrient, 1901, no. 15.
  • Truman, Charles.The Gilbert collection of gold boxes, Vol. I. Los Angeles (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) 1991, cat. no. 71, pp. 208-11. ISBN.0875871623
  • Schroder, Timothy, ed. The Gilbert Collection at the V&A. London (V&A Publishing) 2009, p. 48, pl. 31. ISBN9781851775934
  • Baer, Winfried. Prunk-Tabatièren Friedrichs des Großen. Munich: Hirmer Verlag, 1993, p. 54, no. 36.
  • Koeppe, Wolfram and Annamaria Giusti.with contributions by Cristina Acidini ... [et al.] ; edited by Wolfram Koeppe. Art of the Royal Court. Treasures in Pietre Dure from the Palaces of Europe.. New York : Metropolitan Museum of Art ; New Haven ; London : Yale University Press, c2008, pp. 262-3, cat. no. 90.
  • Medlam, Sarah and Lesley Ellis Miller, eds. Princely Treasures. European Masterpieces 1600 - 1800 from the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V&A Publishing, 2011. ISBN 9781851776337. Pp. 28-29.
  • Zech, Heike. Gold Boxes. Masterpieces from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection. London: V&A Publishing, 2015, pp. 86-87, no. 27. ISBN 987-1-85177-840-9
Other Numbers
  • GB 120 - Arthur Gilbert Number
  • 1996.469 - The Gilbert Collection, Somerset House
Collection
Accession Number
LOAN:GILBERT.412-2008

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record createdJune 19, 2008
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