The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Snuff box
  • Snuff box
  • Louis Roucel (+1787) , Goldsmith
  • Paris, France
  • 1764 - 1766
  • Gold and japanese lacquer, chased and engraved
  • Object size: 3.5 x 7 x 5.4 cm
    Weight: 116 g
  • Maker's mark: 'L.R.' and a crown for Louis Roucel.
    Warden's mark: 'B', for 1765-6
    Warden's mark: 'A', for 1764-5
    Charge mark: For fermier Jean-Jacques Prévost (1762-68)
    Discharge mark: A head of a dogfor Jean-Jacques Prevost (1762-68)
    Warranty mark: A sheep's head, for 1819 to 1838
    Mark: An anvil mark
    Inscription: 'ROUCEL Orfe du Roi A PARIS' Engraved
  • G40
  • Boudoir Cabinet
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century auction catalogues, the makers of gold snuffboxes were only identified if their names were inscribed on the bezel. This meant that some goldsmiths obtained a certain celebrity, such as Louis Roucel, whose name was found inscribed on several boxes, including this one.
    Roucel became a royal goldsmith by 1764 and advertised himself as being on the quai de l’Horloge at the sign of the Plump Grape (Gros Raisin).
    In 1819 the sale of the collection of Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), wife of George III, included several snuffboxes. She was well-known to have been a habitual snuff-taker and this box appears to have been in her collection. It is not known when it came into the Wallace Collection, but it bears a hallmark denoting that it was in Paris between 1819 and 1838 and it may be that it was bought by the 4th Marquess of Hertford in that city.

    Octagonal with canted corners, this box has been mounted with ten panels of Japanese lacquer. The seemingly black streak on the lacquer cover is actually silver decoration that has oxidized black. The panels depict two deer by a river, a pavilion, and chrysanthemum flowers and other foliage along the walls. The lacquer comprises several types; “hiramaki-e” (gold powder on a flat surface); “takamaki-e” (gold powder on a raised surface) and “kirigane” (gold foil). The cagework is decorated with rouletted lines with a rose at each junction and the cover is bordered by a single strand of rope work. The interior of the box is gold.

    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 currently 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.