A French enamel Snuff Box, Paris, circa 1745-50

This double-opening snuff box (boîte à deux tabacs) of rectangular form dates from the reign of Louis XV. Each side is exquisitely embellished in raised gilding (gold foil) with additional translucent green enamel decoration. The hinged double cover has an elaborate geometrical design of radiating gilt lines, each section alternating with a diapered gilt pattern and a scrolling gilt and green enamel ribbon. The entire design is surrounded by a border of gilt and green enamel scrolls. This weblike design is repeated on each side, including the base. The corners and the edge of the base are heightened with a continuous chain pattern of gilt and green enamel. The interior has two plain white compartments.

The marked silver mounts with flanged thumbpieces bear a Paris discharge mark for 1744-50.

Traditionally, white enamel on copper boxes such as this, with raised gilding, have been attributed to Germany. The Berlin workshop of the Huguenot goldsmith Pierre Fromery (1685-1738) was particularly renowned for wares of this type and signed examples do exist. A number of such boxes have French silver mounts, and it would not be unusual for Parisian marchands-merciers to import enamel boxes for the purpose of having them mounted with silver rims, prior to selling them to their wealthy Parisian clientele. The German attribution was compounded by the fact that no French or Parisian enamelling workshops were known.

Recent research, however, has shed new light on the matter. A watchcase in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, decorated with foil encrustation and signed by a craftsman, G. Bouvier (active in Paris c.1740) indicates local activity on a commercial level. It is also possible that the Paris sous-fermier Antoine Leschaudel, may have been manufacturing enamel wares of this type, as well as fitting them, and French porcelain, with silver mounts.

The geometrical weblike decoration is very similar to that found on French gold boxes of this period, reinforcing the likelihood that such enamel work was carried out in Paris.

Condition: Excellent – the raised gilt decoration is in superb, unworn condition, and the white enamel exterior has only a couple of very faint and short hairlines. These are difficult to detect because of the elaborate decoration. There are a couple of minute losses to the interior base rim, although these are covered by the silver mounts, and one or two short, faint hairlines to the interior corners have been retouched.

Dimensions: Length (at base) 8 cm; Width (at base) 5.5 cm; Height 3.5 cm

Ref. See Sotheby’s, The Summer Sale, Olympia, London, July 18, 2007, lot 137, for a contemporary Paris double snuffbox.

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

Eighteenth Century Gold Boxes of Europe, A. Kenneth Snowman (Antique Collectors’ Club, 1990).