Circular Snuff Box, Birmingham, enamel, gilt cagework and mother-of-pearl, c.1750


This really is such an exquisite piece of Birmingham craftsmanship, in terms of both the enamel decoration and the quality of the metalwork. Both sides of the hinged cover are painted with detailed Turkish harbour scenes, after those found on earlier Meissen porcelain. Merchants stand on the quayside before majestic classical buildings, whilst workers load and unload cargo. The interior and base are of mother-of-pearl. The chasing of the gilt metal cagework around the sides is extraordinarily detailed, and perfectly sets off the mother-of-pearl.

Condition: There are typical fine cracks to the enamel cover, and a small, flat chip, although this does not penetrate through to the copper on which the enamel is painted. The cracks are not terribly obvious as the painted decoration rather hides them. The thumbpiece and hinge are both in good order with only light wear to the gilding from being held. The cover closes nicely. There is a very slight ‘dink’ to the thin, circular metal footrim. The mother-of-pearl is in good order, as is the gliding to the cagework. No further damage and no restoration.

Dimensions: Diameter (across the base) 5.5 cm

English Painted Enamels, Therle and Bernard Hughes (Country Life, 1951).

English Enamel Boxes From the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Centuries, Susan Benjamin (Little, Brown, 1978).


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