Enamel and gilt-metal Snuff Box, Birmingham, c.1755

 

The enamel cover of this charming circular snuff box is painted with a spray of flowers, including roses, on a white ground. The gilt-metal base takes the form of a two-handled basket, with exquisite milled and engine-turned decoration imitating the osier art of the basketweaver. The thumbpiece is modelled as a twisted basketwork handle, a device repeated above the hinge, creating the illusion of a basket with two handles. The centre of the gilt-metal underside has a circular design surrounded by a band of engine-turned starburst decoration.

Provenance: Trade label for C. Basker & Son, Dealers in the Antique, Grantham, Lincolnshire.

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 - just a few typical short, fine cracks to the enamel cover and some patination to the metal. The hinged mechanism works well and the cover closes neatly. No chips or restoration.

Dimensions: Diameter (at cover) 5.8 cm; Diameter (at base) 4.7 cm; Height (to top of domed cover) 2.7 cm

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

English Porcelain and Enamels 1743-1775, Simon Spero (exhibition catalogue, 2009). See No. 46 for a similar snuff box in the form of a two-handled basket. Spero states that all boxes of this type are invariably early and from the 1750s. These 'pannier' boxes were costly to make and no two were machined in the same way.

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

 

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