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. A musical trophy decorates the lid of this oval snuffbox.
- European Snuffboxes. Headley-Whitney Museum, Lexington. 1980.
Provenance Frederick Henry Maitland, 13th Earl of Lauderdale [1840-1924]; Sale, Christie's, London, June 30, 1911, no. 42; George Harding, London [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1914, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Inscriptions [Mark of Goldsmith] On the interior of the lid, interior of the base, and interior of the front wall opposite the hinge and indicating the work of Charles Barnabé Sagaret: Crowned fleur-de-list over a Greek cross, flanked by two grains de remède, with initials CBS below; [Mark of Assayer]Interior of the lid, interior of the base, and on interior of the front wall opposite hinge and indicating charge mark of Jean-Jacques Prévost: Crossed palms; [Mark of Warden] On interior of the lid, interior of the base, and on interior of the front wall opposite the hinge indicating year of 1765: crowned italic B.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, 1914
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