The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Snuff box
  • Snuff box
  • Henry-Guillaume Adnet (+1745) , Goldsmith
  • Paris, France
  • 1744 - 1745
  • Gold, mother-of-pearl and carnelian
  • Object size: 3.5 x 7.3 x 5.1 cm
    Weight: 192.4 g
  • Maker's mark: Includes 'A', crown and anchor. Mark of Henry (-Guillaume) Adent, goldsmith registered in Paris. 6th September 1712 - 4th October 1745.
    Warden's mark: 'D'. Maison Commune mark for gold, Paris. 6th July 1744 - 26th November 1745.
    Charge mark: The charge mark for gold of sous-fermier Antoine Leschaudel, Paris. 13th October 1744 - 1st October 1750.
    Discharge mark: A salmon head. The discharge mark for gold of the sous-fermier, Antoine Leschaudel, Paris. 13th October 1744 - 1st October 1750.
  • G6
  • Boudoir Cabinet
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Rectangular snuffbox comprising six panels of mother-of-pearl carved with scrolls and shells and encrusted with gold strapwork and flowers over plain reserves, the centre of the cover with a carnelian basket of gold flowers, all mounted in a cagework of gold chased with scrolls.

    There is one other known mother-of-pearl snuffbox by this maker which is in a private collection. Other items stamped with Adnet’s mark appear to be mainly silver and include two prestigious tureens after designs by Juste Aurèle Meissonnier for the Duke of Kingston 1734-40. Several craftsmen better known for their work in silver also made gold boxes. The most notable of these are probably François-Thomas Germain and Robert-Joseph Auguste.

    At the time of Adnet’s second marriage in 1734, which saw his social status rise, he is described as marchand-joaillier (dealer-jeweller) or marchand-orfèvre-joailler (dealer-goldsmith jeweller), whereas at the time of his first marriage in 1712 he was described simply as orfèvre (goldsmith). This suggests that Adnet’s career was not that of a goldsmith working at a bench, but rather that of an entrepreneur who ran an efficient manufacturing silver-and goldsmithing business. A business which could turn its attention to anything that was required, or buy in what was necessary, to fulfil a client’s order, including gold snuffboxes. However, it is unlikely that Adnet’s workshop did anything other than assemble the present box, and the most distinctive aspect of the piece, the gold encrusted mother-of-pearl panels, would have been produced by a specialist but sadly anonymous craftsman.

    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.