The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Snuff box
  • Snuff box
  • Jean Ducrollay (c. 1710 - 1787) , Goldsmith
  • Paris, France
  • 1744
  • Gold and enamel
  • Object size: 3.2 x 7.6 x 5.8 cm
    Weight: 159.2 g
  • Maker's mark: 'J. D.' under a heart, mark of Jean Ducrollay, goldsmith registered in Paris, 26th July 1734 - 12 December 1761. Recorded later as a negociant until 1771.
    Warden's mark: 'C'. Maison Commune mark for gold, Paris. 6th July 1744-26th November 1745.
  • G4
  • Boudoir Cabinet
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This scallop-shaped snuffbox is enamelled en plein (the enamel is painted directly onto the box) with radiating peacock’s feathers. The rim of the lid is chased with ribbon-tied reeds. When opened in order to allow the taking of snuff, the lid shows the full peacock’s tail in full upright glory, unlike most snuffboxes which when opened show the lid’s decoration upside down.

    This magnificent box was one of many owned by the duc d’Aumont, the First Gentleman of the Bedchamber to King Louis XV and a well known as a connoisseur of art. Valued at 360 livres on the Duc’s death, it actually sold for more than double the estimated value which indicates that the box must have been recognised, even in 1782, as a great example of goldsmith’s work, although the fashion for boxes of this shape had long since passed.

    The enameller of the superb and delicate peacock feathers is sadly unknown. Ducrollay is known to have employed several enamellers to decorate his boxes. Some signed their work, or worked in a style that was recognisable to their contemporaries, including Le Sueur, Hamelin, Liot and Aubert, but the style of this particular enamelled work defies attribution. None of these craftsmen is known to have been working as early as 1744 and the only enameller whose name is known from this period is the elusive Joaguet (see G2) but the style of enamelling attributed to him does not correspond to that on this box. It is however, a tour de force of the enameller’s art which has contributed to the creation of one of the most spectacular, and arguably the most famous, gold box of the eighteenth century.


    Snuffboxes played an important role in fashion and self-promotion, in diplomacy and, in the 19th century, in collecting. Often they were used as a currency for their monetary values and the status they could embody. Their practical purpose was often secondary – they were highly valued as art objects in their own right. Gold boxes were a barometer of the taste of the time and exemplify the skills of not only goldsmiths, but also enamellers, lapidaries and miniature painters.