The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Snuff box
  • Snuff box
  • Mathieu Coiny (active between: 1723-1788) , Goldsmith
  • Adrien-Jean Maximilien Vachette (1753 - 1839), Repaired by, after 1819
  • Paris, France
  • 1763 - 1764
    after 1819 (repaired)
  • Gold and enamel, painted and chased
  • Object size: 4.2 x 8.5 x 6.4 cm
    Weight: 240.4 g
  • Mark: 'AV' beneath two grains de remède flanking a cock, all in a diamond shaped compartment for Adrien-Jean Maximilien Vachette (working 1779-1839) Parisian post-revolutionary type
    Maker's mark: Partly illegible, first letter 'M' and a quince and stalk possibly for Mathieu Coiny (active 1755-88) Parisian type
    Warden's mark: 'Z' of the Maison Commune 1763-4
    Charge mark: Two bay leaf branches, for Jean-Jacques Prévost (1762-68)
    Mark: A baby's head with '2' under his left ear in a contour shaped compartment
    Export mark: A small cow
    Excise mark: Profile head of a bearded and long-haired old man (Sardanapalus) in an oval compartment, for 1819 to 1838
    Mark: A rearing Pegasus with '2' beneath his belly in a hexagonal compartment, second standard mark for 1819 to 1838
    Small guarantee mark: Eagle's head in profile, for 1838 to 1847 Punched twice
    Mark: A bull charging and '3' above his back, third standard mark for 1819 to 1838
  • G37
  • Boudoir Cabinet
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • An oval varicoloured snuffbox enamelled “en plein” (enamel applied directly on to the snuffbox) with six reserves depicting a mixture of domestic and urban scenes of everyday life taken from engravings after French painters. The cover and base are bordered with ribbon-tied laurels, scrolls and palms in yellow and green gold. The sides are bordered with scrolls and shells and four pilasters hung with swags. The front rim of the lid appears originally to have opened to reveal a secret compartment, now secured shut with lead solder. The interior of the box is gold.
    While the source for the scene on the lid of the box is still to be identified, the others have been and are as follows: on the base La marchande de marrons (the chestnut seller) and on the front La maman (the mother) both engraved by J.-F. Beauvarlet (1731-1797) after Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805), on the back Les Jardinières Italiennes au marché (the Italian market gardeners) engraved by J. Ouvrier (1725-1754) after J.-B.-M. Pierre (1713-1789), and those at the ends Le Petit Pasteur and La Petite Fermière (the young farmers) engraved by Claude Duflos (1662-1727) after François Boucher (1703-1770).
    The absence of a source for the scene on the lid is somewhat frustrating. It depicts the interior of a laundry and is also found on another box now in the Louvre, also by Coiny, and on a box by Adrien-Jean-Maximilien Vachette of 1777-78. This indicates that there was a common print source for all three boxes.
    As with G38 in the Wallace Collection, the Rococo subjects taken from Boucher and Pierre contrast with the more Neoclassical themes of Greuze. This combination of styles is familiar in furniture, where it is referred to as ‘transitional’, but it is interesting to see paintings similarly juxtaposed when contemporary art critics were often scathing in their judgements.
    The import and export marks on this box show that this box was exported from France between 1763-1764 and 1774, and that it had returned to Paris between the years 1819 and 1838. It might be assumed that Vachette was responsible for securing the secret compartment, replacing the interior of the lining and perhaps removing a miniature at the same time.

    Snuffboxes played an important role in fashion and self-promotion, 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. Although they were used for snuff-taking, 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.