In 1839, seven years after the Russian Empire had absorbed the Kingdom of Poland, Nicholas I presented this box to I. C. Singels, a hydraulic engineer for the Bank of Poland. On the face of the box, an urn containing a splendid floral bouquet is rendered in quatre-couleur gold over a sablé or finely stippled background. These motifs are framed by exuberant Rococo scrolls partially decorated with black champlevé enamel. The rest of the box face is covered with floral designs in blue champlevé enamel. The reverse side, in contrast, is severely neoclassical style with borders of laurel leaves and corners decorated with fleur de lys. As demonstrated by this box, goldsmiths in the late 18th and early 19th centuries tended to exploit their extraordinary technical mastery of quatre-couleur gold and to assign enameling a secondary role.
Sotheby's Sale, Geneva, July 11, 1989; purchased by Jean M. Riddell, Washington, D.C., 1989 [Leo Kaplan, New York, as agent]; by bequest to Walters Art Museum, 2010.
[Mark] Inside box in Latin letters; Keibel; [Marks] On rim: 776, French crab import mark; [Inscription] Inside lid in French: Donnée en cadeau par / Sa Majesté l'Empereur / de toutes les Russies / Nicolas I. à Monsieur / I.C. Singels, Ingénieur hydraulique / de la Banque de Pologne / 1839.
Bequest of Mrs. Jean M. Riddell, 2010