Snuff Box thumbnail 1
Snuff Box thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 118; The Wolfson Gallery

Snuff Box

1765-1775 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
This box was almost certainly a portable container for snuff. Snuff was formed from fermented tobacco mixed with various combinations of perfumed oils, herbs or spices into a compressed block, which was then grated to make a fine powder ready for inhalation. English painted enamel boxes with hinges linking lids to bases were a phenomenon of the 1740s. Painted enamel watch-dials and the like had already been made for years, and metal goods, including hinges and boxes with separate lids, were already produced in the West Midlands. But the hinged enamel box came about because there was a demand for boxes which could be held open in one hand while taking a pinch of snuff with the other. These boxes also provided attractive giftware at more affordable prices than imported Continental precious metal boxes.

Ownership & Use
The fashion for snuff-taking was at its height in the 18th century. The snuff box was a must-have accessory for gentlemen and even for some ladies. There were different mixtures of snuff for different times of day and different seasons, and definite rules about the way to hold the box and take the snuff.

Design & Designing
Raised Rococo scrolls enclose panels on the lid and four sides of this box. Each panel is deftly painted with groupings of fruit and vegetables. Although vegetables are very unusual on English painted enamels, there was a vogue for vegetable-shaped porcelain tableware in mid-18th-century Britain. The arrangements of vegetables on this box, though, are more reminiscent of French still-life paintings of the mid-17th to mid-18th centuries by artists such as François Desportes (1661-1743).
read Women's tie-on pockets The development of 'tie-on' pockets during the 17th century was a defining moment for women, providing an extremely popular detachable accessory for carrying their possessions, similar to the function of handbags today.
object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Enamelled copper, with chased gilt-metal mounts
Dimensions
  • Height: 3.49cm
  • Width: 8.25cm
  • Depth: 6.35cm
Gallery Label
British Galleries: The enamelled copper technique was applied to snuffboxes from the 1740s. This box was made in one of the West Midlands enamelling centres - Birmingham, Bilston or Wednesbury. Its subject and very detailed painting are exceptional for these commercial centres and was inspired by German and French porcelain examples.(27/03/2003)
Credit line
Bequeathed by Myles Burton Kennedy, Esq.
Object history
Made in Birmingham or the West Midlands
Summary
Object Type
This box was almost certainly a portable container for snuff. Snuff was formed from fermented tobacco mixed with various combinations of perfumed oils, herbs or spices into a compressed block, which was then grated to make a fine powder ready for inhalation. English painted enamel boxes with hinges linking lids to bases were a phenomenon of the 1740s. Painted enamel watch-dials and the like had already been made for years, and metal goods, including hinges and boxes with separate lids, were already produced in the West Midlands. But the hinged enamel box came about because there was a demand for boxes which could be held open in one hand while taking a pinch of snuff with the other. These boxes also provided attractive giftware at more affordable prices than imported Continental precious metal boxes.

Ownership & Use
The fashion for snuff-taking was at its height in the 18th century. The snuff box was a must-have accessory for gentlemen and even for some ladies. There were different mixtures of snuff for different times of day and different seasons, and definite rules about the way to hold the box and take the snuff.

Design & Designing
Raised Rococo scrolls enclose panels on the lid and four sides of this box. Each panel is deftly painted with groupings of fruit and vegetables. Although vegetables are very unusual on English painted enamels, there was a vogue for vegetable-shaped porcelain tableware in mid-18th-century Britain. The arrangements of vegetables on this box, though, are more reminiscent of French still-life paintings of the mid-17th to mid-18th centuries by artists such as François Desportes (1661-1743).
Collection
Accession Number
C.470-1914

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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