The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Snuff box
  • Snuff box
  • Possibly Louis Regnard (active between: 1773 - before 1769) , Goldsmith
  • Paris, France
  • 1752 - 1753
  • Papier maché (?), metal foil, shellac varnish, oil paint, turtleshell and gold
  • Object size: 4 x 8.3 x 6.4 cm
    Weight: 111.1 g
  • Maker's mark: Mark of unidentified Paris goldsmith that includes 'L' and 'R'. The device is not visable.
    Warden's mark: 'M' of the Maison Commune mark for gold, Paris, 15 July 1752 - 10 July 1753.
    Charge mark: A head of an ox, for the sous-fermier Julien Berthe, 1 October 1750 - 1 October 1756.
    Discharge mark: A head of a hen, for the sous-fermier Julien Berthe, 1 October 1750 - 1 October 1756.
    Mark: Defaced
  • G18
  • Boudoir Cabinet
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This box is made of papier maché which has been covered in a metal foil, and stamped with a trellis and scroll decoration. This has been varnished with gold coloured shellac (a resin secreted by the female Lac beetle), to give the impression of a gold snuffbox with enamel images. It has been painted in oils with pheasants and other game and exotic birds, and a scrolling gold thumbpiece has been added. The box is lined with turtleshell.
    While the subject matter would have had a universal appeal in eighteenth-century France, the material used in its construction - with the gold content being confined to the simple mounts - suggests that boxes of this type would have been bought and used by less wealthy members of society.
    The bird painting is reminiscent of the exotic birds painted on Sèvres porcelain in the 1750s, examples of which can be found in the Back State Room on the Ground Floor.
    The author Diderot in his 'Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers' ['Encyclopaedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts'] refers to this type of box as a 'tabatière en carton' ['snuffbox in cardboard'], where he mentions in great detail the manufacture of the boxes using papier-mâché and varnishes.

    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.