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Rectangular Snuffbox
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Rectangular Snuffbox

Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Inscription Credit
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. Each side of this snuffbox features a panel enameled en plein – or without boarders or compartments to contain the enamel –framework of chiseled gold and translucent guilloche enamel. The panel on the cover represents Diana resting after the hunt. Various beasts and a reclining nymph with bow appear elsewhere on the body of the box.

The snuffbox was examined prior to exhibition in Pearls on a String, fall 2015. The painted enamel panels are abraded, especially on the bottom from past use. Several small areas of the green bastaille enamel have been lost and filled in the past.

Date Description Narrative
6/08/2015ExaminationExamined for exhibition
  • Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Asian Art Museum, San Francisco. 2015-2016.
Provenance Collection of Charles J. Wertheimer (date and mode of aquisition unknown); Sale, Christie's, London, May 8 1912, no. 34; purchased by George Harding, London, 1912 (?); purchased by Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1914; by bequest to Walters Art Museum, 1931.
Inscriptions [Goldsmith Mark] On interior lid, base, and proper right side: crowned fleur de lis with two dots and two illegible letters (second probably "M"); [Warranty mark] On interior lid, crowned R; indicating the year 16 July 1757 to 20 July 1758; [Warranty Mark] On interior base, crowned S; indicating the year 21 July 1758-13 July 1759; [Mark of Assayer] On the interior lid, indicating Éloy Brichard and Étienne Somfoye: portcullis; [Discharge mark] On exterior of upper left rim, indicating Eloy Brichard and Etienne Somfoye (1756-1762): small shell.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, 1914

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gold with translucent guilloche enamel and opaque painted enamel
(Gold, Silver & Jewelry)
Accession Number
Closed H: 1 1/4 × W: 2 1/2 × D: 1 1/4 in. (3.1 × 6.3 × 3.1 cm)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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