The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Snuff box
  • Snuff box
  • Hubert Cheval (active between: fl. 1716 - 1751) , Goldsmith
  • Hubert-Louis Cheval de St Hubert (active between: fl. 1751 - 1790), Enameller, Perhaps
    Gabriel Huquier (1695 - 1772), Engraver
    Pierre Aveline (1702 - 1760), Engraver
    After François Boucher (1703 - 1770), Painter, (scenes)
  • Paris, France
  • 1749 - 1750
  • Gold and enamel
  • Object size: 3.2 x 7 x 5.1 cm
    Weight: 173.2 g
  • Maker's mark: 'H C' and a garb (a sheaf of corn). Mark of Hubert Cheval, goldsmith registered in Paris. 25 January 1716 - 20 December 1751.
    Warden's mark: 'I'. Maison Commune mark for gold, Paris. 15 July 1749 - 14 July 1750.
    Charge mark: An arm. The charge for gold of the sous-fermier, Antoine Leschaudel, Paris. 13 October 1734 - 1 October 1750.
    Discharge mark: A head of a hen. The discharge mark for gold of the sous-fermier, Julien Berthe, Paris. 1 October 1750 - 1 October 1756.
  • G8
  • Boudoir Cabinet
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This rectangular Gold Box by Hubert Cheval is a magnificent example of basse taille, (translucent enamel added to low relief engraving) enamel work. As well as the vibrant blue enamelled scenes depicting an idealised vision of Chinese life in the Chinoiserie style which cover each facet of the box, the rest of the gold has been chased with a diaper (diagonal) pattern inside which are alternating vertical and horizontal lines and quatrefoils (four leafed designs). These designs are very similar to the designs on Chinese Lacquer furniture from that period.

    Enamellers in the 18th century often found their decorative schemes from print sources taken from engravings. In this case it is remarkable that each scene can be identified from Gabriel Huquier’s 'Scènes de La Vie Chinoise' published 1742 and Boucher’s 'L’eau', from 'Les Quatre Elements' engraved by Pierre Aveline in 1740. There have been some adaptations from the print source to the box, to make allowances for space and orientation but otherwise the scenes are fairly true to the original source. The cover is after 'La pêche au cormorant'; that on the base after 'Flûtiste et enfant timbalier'; on the front, a child from 'Le carillon'; on the right-hand side, a child from 'La toilette'; on the left-hand side, a child that is being held by its nurse in 'Chinoise assise tenant un plat, entourée d’enfant et de servantes' is shown seated.

    The goldsmith of this box, Hubert Cheval had a son who also an enameller and Goldsmith. His son who used the name Hubert-Louis Cheval de St Hubert registered a mark as a goldsmith in 1751 and continued working, apparently in that profession, although his mark has not been noted on any gold boxes until 1762. It seems highly probable that the father, Hubert Cheval, would have used his son, even before he attained the mâitrise as a goldsmith, to enamel any box that he made and therefore this box might have been decorated by Hubert-Louis Cheval de St Hubert.

    The craftsman responsible for engraving the low relief (basse taille) gold ground for enamel remains unclear. Today enamellers engrave their own grounds before applying the enamel. One craftsman called Charles-Louis Guillemain who died in 1779 was described in scellés as maître graveur émailleur, (master engraver and enameller) which suggests that he might have practised the deep engraving for basse taille enamel. However the author of these intricate designs remains unknown.

    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.