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

Miniature

1690-95 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The term boîte à portrait (French for 'box with a portrait') is a mystery, since these objects have nothing to do with a box. Recipients of such presents in France were tacitly allowed to return them to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in exchange for cash. While such practices may not have been so explicit in the rest of Europe, the portraits were frequently dismantled and the diamonds sold. This example is an extremely rare survival and show how the practice was quickly adopted by sovereigns of other countries, especially in northern Europe.

While the sitter in this boîte à portrait remains unidentified, the crown surmounting the frame indicates that it is an Elector, a ruler of a German principality entitled to vote in the election of the Holy Roman Emperor.

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Enamel on gold, silver-gilt frame with rose-diamonds and enamel
Brief Description
Enamel miniature on gold of an Elector, in a silver-gilt frame with rose-diamonds and enamel, Dusseldorf, 1690-95, by J.M. Khaetscher.
Physical Description
Oval portrait miniature of an Elector, one of the German princes entitled to elect the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, shown in armour with red ribbons either side of a long curly blond wig. The minature is enamel on gold and the frame is silver-gilt studded with rose-diamonds hanging from a rose-diamond studded Electoral crown with traces of red enamel.
Dimensions
  • Height: 7.9cm
  • Width: 4.4cm
  • Depth: 1.2cm
Updated with measurements taken 29/07/08
Gallery Label
  • 1. Elector with red bow 1690–95 Enamels like this one played an important role in court life. The image of the elector – a German prince entitled to take part in the election of the Holy Roman Emperor – is set into a jewelled frame. This is so that the wearer, probably someone in the elector’s service, could demonstrate their loyalty to him. Germany, probably Düsseldorf; J.M. Khaetscher (active about 1690–1715) Enamel on gold in original gilded silver and diamond pendant frame Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.294-2008(16/11/2016)
  • Elector with red bow 1690–5 Enamels like this one played an important role in court life. The image of the elector – a German prince entitled to take part in the election of the Emperor – is set into a jewelled frame so that the wearer, probably someone in his service, could demonstrate their relationship and loyalty to him. Germany, probably Düsseldorf; J.M. Khaetscher (active about 1690–1715) Enamel on gold in original gilded silver and diamond pendant frame Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.294-2008(2009)
Credit line
The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Object history
Provenance: Sale, Sotheby's, Geneva, lot 203, 11/11/1981. D.S. Lavender, London, 01/10/1982.
Summary
The term boîte à portrait (French for 'box with a portrait') is a mystery, since these objects have nothing to do with a box. Recipients of such presents in France were tacitly allowed to return them to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in exchange for cash. While such practices may not have been so explicit in the rest of Europe, the portraits were frequently dismantled and the diamonds sold. This example is an extremely rare survival and show how the practice was quickly adopted by sovereigns of other countries, especially in northern Europe.



While the sitter in this boîte à portrait remains unidentified, the crown surmounting the frame indicates that it is an Elector, a ruler of a German principality entitled to vote in the election of the Holy Roman Emperor.



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
  • Coffin, Sarah and Bodo Hofstetter. Portrait Miniatures in Enamel. London: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd. in association with the Gilbert Collection, 2000. 168 p., ill. Cat. no. 34, pp. 81-82. ISBN 0856675334.
  • Zech, Heike. Gold Boxes. Masterpieces from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection. London: V&A Publishing, 2015, p. 15, fig. 9. 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.54, cat.28
Other Numbers
  • 1996.803.1 - The Gilbert Collection, Somerset House
  • MIN 38 - Arthur Gilbert Number
  • 1996.791.1 - The Gilbert Collection, Somerset House
  • MIN 26 - Arthur Gilbert Number
Collection
Accession Number
LOAN:GILBERT.294-2008

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record createdJune 26, 2008
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