Enamel Snuff Box, probably Bilston, South Staffordshire, c.1775


The cover of this delightful snuff box is painted with a peacock on a balustrade. Beyond, is a wooded area partly reflected in a lake or river. To the left, one tree stands alone beside the water's edge, and in the distance can be glimpsed a small, rustic dwelling. This scene is reserved on a pink ground with raised white scroll and trelliswork decoration. The sides of the snuff box are painted with cartouches containing floral sprigs, including a rose and pansies. The centre of the white base is also decorated with a raised white enamel floral motif.

The peacock in a classical landscape was a popular subject for the decorative arts in England during the Rococo period, and several wine glasses, c.1765-70, enamelled with similar decoration by the celebrated Beilby family of enamellers, are recorded. Indeed, the connection between their enamel painting on glassware and the art of decorating enamel boxes is an interesting one, particularly as brothers Richard and William Beilby were both apprenticed to John Hezeldine, an enameller of Bilston, during the 1750s.

During the second half of the 18th century, the Midlands, especially areas around South Staffordshire and Birmingham, were centres for the production of small, metalwork items such as this snuff box.

Condition: Very good - the painted scenes are in excellent, unworn condition, as is the raised white enamel scroll and dot decoration. Some patination and wear to the gilt mounts. There are a few expected small cracks to the inside of the cover, from use, although these do not go through to the outside. There are also a few tiny, faint cracks to the corners, but no chips or restoration. The hinged mechanism works well and the cover closes neatly.

Dimensions: Length (at cover) 6.5 cm; Width (at cover) 5 cm; Height (to top of cover) 3 cm

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

A Beilby Odyssey, James Rush (Nelson & Saunders, 1987).

English Enamel Boxes, Susan Benjamin (Macdonald Orbis, 1988).


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