Snuffbox thumbnail 1
Snuffbox thumbnail 2
+4
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
Not currently on display at the V&A
On short term loan out for exhibition

Snuffbox

ca. 1768 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

Thomas Dimsdale (1712-1800), an English doctor and advocate of the practice of inoculation against smallpox, was summoned by the Russian ambassador to advise Catherine II during the Russian smallpox epidemic of 1768. So impressed was Catherine by the success of the potentially dangerous treatment that Thomas was created a Baron of the Russian Empire, a councillor of state and personal physician to the Empress, and awarded a princely sum of £10,000 plus an annuity and works of art. His son, Nathaniel was presented with this magnificent diamond-encrusted, varicoloured-gold snuffbox, decorated with figures in neo-classical landscapes by Paul 'as a testimony of his regard'. The box may have been made in either St Petersburg or Berlin.

The Gilbert Collection is also fortunately endowed with a miniature portrait of Thomas, 1st Baron Dimsdale (Loan: Gilbert. 257-2008) - enamelled by Henry Bone in 1800 in the final year of his life.

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.

Delve deeper

Discover more about this object
read An A–Z of metalwork With a collection as vast and varied as Metalwork at the V&A, where do you begin? Here's an alphabetical run-down of some beautiful, quirky, ingenious, dangerous and, quite frankly, scary objects to get you started.

Object details

Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Chased gold with diamonds encrusted in silver settings, four with pink tint and foil backing, the other diamonds set over black foil backing
Brief description
Snuffbox with classical landscapes associated with Dr Dimsdale. Gold, silver, diamonds, foil. Probably Berlin, Germany, ca.1768.
Physical description
A rectangular, jewelled, varicoloured-gold snuffbox, chased and applied on each surface with figures in classical landscapes in coloured gold on a sablé ground, within reeded borders entwined with foliage and flowers, the cover encrusted with diamonds in the architectural details and with four pink foiled diamonds and numerous rose diamonds around the borders.
Dimensions
  • Length: 7.7cm
  • Width: 6.1cm
  • Height: 4.1cm
Gallery label
  • 13. Snuffbox with classical landscapes About 1768 Aged fourteen, Grand Duke Paul of Russia (1754–1801) presented this ‘superb snuffbox richly set with diamonds’ to Nathaniel Dimsdale (1748–1811), as a token of gratitude. Nathaniel’s father Dr Thomas Dimsdale had successfully inoculated Paul and his mother, Catherine the Great, against smallpox. Possibly Berlin, Germany or St Petersburg, Russia; maker’s mark PAG Gold, silver, diamonds and foil Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.346-2008(16/11/2016)
  • Snuffbox with classical landscapes About 1768 Grand Duke Paul of Russia presented this ‘superb snuffbox richly set with diamonds’ to Nathaniel Dimsdale, the son of Dr Thomas Dimsdale, who inoculated Catherine the Great and her son, Paul, against smallpox in 1768. Possibly Berlin, Germany or St Petersburg, Russia; maker’s mark PAG Gold, silver, diamonds and foil Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.346-2008(2009)
Credit line
The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Object history
Provenance: Grand Duke Paul of Russia (or possibly Catherine II). Nathaniel Dimsdale. Anne Dimsdale (his sister, died 1832). Charles John, fifth Baron Dimsdale (Anne Dimsdale's nephew, died 1872), thence by descent. Sotheby's, Geneva, lot 176, November 16, 1989. S.J. Phillips, London, 1989.
Subjects depicted
Association
Summary
Thomas Dimsdale (1712-1800), an English doctor and advocate of the practice of inoculation against smallpox, was summoned by the Russian ambassador to advise Catherine II during the Russian smallpox epidemic of 1768. So impressed was Catherine by the success of the potentially dangerous treatment that Thomas was created a Baron of the Russian Empire, a councillor of state and personal physician to the Empress, and awarded a princely sum of £10,000 plus an annuity and works of art. His son, Nathaniel was presented with this magnificent diamond-encrusted, varicoloured-gold snuffbox, decorated with figures in neo-classical landscapes by Paul 'as a testimony of his regard'. The box may have been made in either St Petersburg or Berlin.

The Gilbert Collection is also fortunately endowed with a miniature portrait of Thomas, 1st Baron Dimsdale (Loan: Gilbert. 257-2008) - enamelled by Henry Bone in 1800 in the final year of his life.

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
  • Dimsdale, Thomas. 'Tracts on Inoculation', Written and Published at St. Petersburg in the Year 1768-69 by Command of Her Imperial Majesty. London, 1781, unpaginated introduction.
  • Pain, Stephanie. Histories: 'To Russia with trepidation'. New Scientist Magazine, 24 March, 2007, pp. 56-57.
  • Truman, Charles, The Gilbert collection of gold boxes, Vol. I. Los Angeles (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) 1991, cat. no. 128, pp. 368-71. ISBN0875871623
  • Zech, Heike. Gold Boxes. Masterpieces from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection. London: V&A Publishing, 2015, pp. 92-93, no. 30. ISBN 987-1-85177-840-9
  • Minter, Alice et al. Masterpieces in Miniature: Treasures from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection. London: V&A Publishing, 2021, p.57, cat.32
Other numbers
  • GB 153 - Arthur Gilbert Number
  • 1996.501 - The Gilbert Collection, Somerset House
  • 1996.791.1 - The Gilbert Collection, Somerset House
  • MIN 26 - Arthur Gilbert Number
Collection
Accession number
LOAN:GILBERT.346-2008

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest feedback

Record createdJune 19, 2008
Record URL
Download as: JSONIIIF Manifest