Description Originating in the Americas, the practice of “taking snuff,” or inhaling pulverized tobacco through the nose, became a common European custom by the 17th century. Consumers of all social levels and of both sexes would carry small, airtight boxes filled with the powdered tobacco, taking a pinch whenever they needed. Over time, however, society’s elites began to purchase and commission increasingly extravagant and precious boxes. Kings and Queens would often present snuffboxes to ambassadors as diplomatic gifts and to courtiers as payment for services. Made of a variety of precious materials, including gold, enamel, semiprecious stones, lacquer, and tortoiseshell, snuffboxes were coveted and enthusiastically collected. Displaying one’s collection of prized snuffboxes or stylishly retrieving an elegant box from one’s pocket were important social rituals; these objects revealed a person’s tastes, interests, and erudition. King Louis XV (1710-1774) presented this box to the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta. On the lid, one can see a gentleman with his dog, resting on a rocky shore and gazing across the sea towards an island.
Provenance Louis XIV, France; Grand Master of Malta, by gift; Admiral Sir Harry Neale, Malta, 1825, by purchase; Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Byam Martin, 3rd Baronet (1773-1854), 1826, by gift; Admiral Sir Henry Byam Martin, by bequest; Admiral Sir William Fanshawe Martin, 4th Baronet (1801-1895), by bequest; Sale [by order of the trustee of Admiral Sir William Fanshawe Martin], Christie's, London, January 24, 1923, lot 17; Harding, New York; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1923, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Inscriptions [Mark of Goldsmith] On the interior of the side wall indicating the work of Jacques-Michel Lemaire: Crowned fleur-de-lis over a possible shell, flanked by two grains de remède, with initials JML below; [Mark of Assayer]On the interior of the side wall indicating the charge mark of Charles Cordier: a left hand; [Mark of Warden] On the interior of side wall, indicating year of 1723: crowned italic G; [Mark of Warranty or Décharge] On the left bezel, for the décharge of Charles Cordier: dove; [Engraving] On the interior of the lid: This snuffbox/ was given by Louis XIV of France/ to the Grand Master of Malta./ It was purchased at Malta/ by Admiral Sir Harry Neale in 1825,/ he being then the naval commander in chief/ in the Mediterranean,/ in 1826 it was given by him/ to Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Byam Martin,/ who bequeathed it to me in 1854./ H.B. Martin.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, 1923
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