The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Snuff box
  • Snuff box
  • Louis Pottin (1700 - 1747) , Goldsmith
  • Possibly Joaguet, Enameller
  • Paris, France
  • 1738 - 1739
  • gold, enamel, agate
  • Object size: 3.9 x 8.5 x 7.6 cm
    Weight: 167.6 g
  • Maker's mark: 'L P' and five pointed star Parisian type
    Warden's mark: 'Y'. Maison Commune mark for gold, Paris 24th September 1739- 29th September 1739
    Charge mark: The charge for Gold of the Sous-fermier Louis Robin, Paris, 4th October 1738 - 3rd October 1744. Almost totally erased.
    Discharge mark: A head of a fox, for the sous-fermier Louis Robin (4th October 1738 3rd October 1744)
  • G2
  • Boudoir Cabinet
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • This crab-shell shaped box is set at the top and bottom with two hardstone panels of figured brown agate. These areas are without a gold lining, no doubt intentionally, so that the beauty of the translucent stone can be revealed. The bombé sides are highlighted with red and white enamel scrolls, pink flowers and green leaves, in very delicate contrast to the boldness of the agate.

    French snuffboxes incorporating panels of hardstone dating from the first half of the eighteenth century are comparatively rare but became more popular in the middle of the century. Madame de Pompadour is known to have had eighteen hardstone snuffboxes at her death in 1764. The enamels on this box have been associated with an enameller named Joaguet, about whom not much is known except that he supplied snuffboxes formed of agate plaques, of carnelain and other hard stones, mounted in gold in exquisite taste, the mounts enamelled in relief showing little flowers depicted naturally.

    Other boxes, such as one in the State Hermitage Museum by an unnamed maker dating to Paris 1736-37, and one by Jean–Louis Lacour, 1740-42 in the Louvre, are enamelled in a style very similar to this box, and are all thought to be associated with Joaquet. The enamellers are often forgotten as they did not mark their work (unlike goldsmiths who had to register their marks with the cour des Monnaies) but in the 18th century work by Joaquet appears to have been highly regarded.
    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.