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The marriage of Alexander the Great and Roxanna, a chased gold plaque made by Ishmail Parbury


Height: 8.300 cm
Width: 6.200 cm
Depth: 2.600 cm

Purchased with a contribution from the Heritage Lottery Fund and The British Museum Friends

M&ME 1997,7-7,1

Room 46: Europe 1400-1800

    The marriage of Alexander the Great and Roxanna, a chased gold plaque made by Ishmail Parbury

    London, England, AD 1745

    Now set as the lid of a 19th-century tortoiseshell box

    The recognition and development of the art of chasing in England in the eighteenth century owed much to the skill and influence of Swiss, German and French immigrants. The most accomplished of these was George Michel Moser (1706-1783), one of only two chasers described and praised by George Vertue (1684-1756). The note-books of Vertue, a writer, antiquary and an engraver of considerable repute, are the major source of information on artistic life in England in the first half of the eighteenth century.

    Ishmail Parbury (died 1746) was the second chaser praised by Vertue, who describes this particular plaque as a 'masterpiece'. Parbury is still regarded today as one of the finest chasers of the time. It is rare to find contemporary references to chasing (the working of metal in relief from the front), and even more remarkable that the two pieces referred to by Vertue survive today: this plaque, and a gold box by Moser in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

    The scene on this plaque depicts the marriage of Alexander the Great and Roxanna, the daughter of a defeated King. It is based on a tapestry cartoon of 1684-6 by Antoine Coypel (1661-1722): Parbury was probably working from a print.

    J. Cherry, S. Ackermann and J. Rudoe, 'Four splendid acquisitions for 'Medieval and Later'', British Museum Magazine: the J, 29 (Winter 1997), pp. 18-20

    A.K. Snowman, Eighteenth century gold boxes, 2nd ed. (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1990)

    R. Edgcumbe, 'Gold chasing' in Rococo: art and design in Hoga, exh. cat. (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1984), pp. 127-36


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