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. This box is set with steel panels ornamented in colored goal with scenes adapted from Chinese sources—possibly Cantonese enamels, Chinese porcelain, or paintings on silk.
- Chinoiserie: The Chinese Influence. Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati. 1979.
Provenance Parsons Sale, no. 787 (?); James A. Garland, [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; James A. Garland Sale, American Art Association, New York, 1910, no. 26; purchased by David W. Bishop, 1910 . Henry Walters, Baltimore [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; by bequest, Walters Art Museum, 1931.  See curatorial file for annotated copy of "Illustrated Catalogue of the Important Collection of Rare and Beautiful Antique Gold Snuff-Boxes and Bonbonnières formed by the late James A. Garland, Esq."
Inscriptions [Maker's mark] On interior bottom (almost illegible), front wall (almost illegible), and lid indicating the work of Louis Ouizille: crowned fleur de lis, flanked by two grains de remède above initials L O separated by a royal scepter; [Mark of Assayer] On the interior bottom and front wall indicating Julien Alaterre: circular flower; [Mark of Warden] On the interior bottom and front wall, possibly crowned G indicating the year July 16 1770 – 10 July 1771; [Mark of Warranty or Décharge ] Struck on left side of bezel, indicating Julien Alaterre: helmeted head looking to its right. [Mark] Outer left bezel, near hinge: 16.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, after 1910
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