- Museum number
- Object: The Parbury Plaque
Chased gold plaque depicting the marriage of Alexander and Roxanna in high relief; signed and dated in the lower right corner: 'I Parbury Londini Fec. 1745'. The plaque set into the lid of an early-nineteenth century tortoiseshell snuff box with gold mounts and thumbpiece. Contained inside the box are two pieces of card with inscriptions in nineteenth-century hands. One reads 'Snuff Box given by George III to his private secretary Sir Herbert Taylor'. The other reads: 'For dearest Bridges Taylor from the Godmamma of dear little Ellinora Alma [?] one of his dear Uncle Herberts Snuff Boxes. Paris Feby 6th 1855'.
- Production date
1745 (Gold plaque)
Diameter: 26 millimetres
Length: 83 millimetres
Width: 62 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The chased gold plaque is one of only two pieces of historic gold chasing done in London described by George Vertue (the other was a gold box in the Wrightsman Gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, signed and dated 'G. M. Moser fecit, Londen [sic] 1741'). Vertue first mentions Parbury in 1732 as among the best chasers in London. At Parbury's death in 1746 he emphasises the fact that Parbury was English (the other chasers all being from Germany, Switzerland or France) and describes the plaque itself:
'Mr Ishmael Parberry. Gold Chaser of watches &c. of Salisbury Court. - deceasd. in Septbr. 1746. and also his daughter. who was a curious limner. died about a fortnight before him - he was a man in his art of great excellency in the neatness and finishing correctness of his works, which gaind him great esteem. above any other Englishman and by that means he obtained the highest prices for his works. one peeice or rather master pece, being top of a gold snuff box, he kept till his death (dated 1745) with his name to it, was sold at the sale of his collections. (his collections sold for 258 pounds) and his daughters works drawing & some limnings that shewd she had a Genius for art but taken away by death in her prime, being about 22 years of age. & her father was a man near 50 years of age.' (Vertue notebooks, Vol III, Walpole Society 1934 pp. 62 & 134).
See also: Sale Catalogue of the Entire Collection of that Ingenious Artist Mr Ishmael Parbury....sold at auction by Mr Cock, 17th and 18th December 1746, lot. 146: 'An exceeding fine chasing in gold of the marriage of Alexander and Roxanna, by Mr Parbury, for a snuff box'. An additional reference on the title page of the catalogue, listing the most interesting items in the sale, reads: 'a most curious History in Gold, chased by Himself, for a snuff box'. A copy of this rare catalogue is in the Department of Prints & Drawings of the British Museum.
The plaque was not mounted as a box-lid in Parbury's lifetime and entered the collection of George III, who had it mounted in the early nineteenth century in a standard presentation snuff box. The box was then presented by George III to Sir Herbert Taylor (1775-1839) who had been his private secretary since 1805. It is not known how the plaque entered the collection of George III but it may have been through G. M. Moser, the King's drawing-master, who was named an executor and trustee under a codicil to Parbury's will dated 28 August 1746.
The scene of Alexander and Roxanna is based on a tapestry cartoon of 1684-86 by Antoine Coypel, one of a series of cartoons made by different artists after drawings by Raphael in the Cabinet du Roi. Three of the cartoons were executed by the Gobelins, but the Alexander and Roxanna tapestry is the only one to survive and is now in the Mobilier National, Paris (see N. Garnier, Antoine Coypel 1661-1722, Paris 1989, no. 16, fig. 30). Parbury was probably working from the print after Coypel engraved by F. La Cave and published by B. Picart; the sale catalogue of Parbury's collection included, among the prints, 'Coypel's marriage of Roxanna' (lot. 32). The Raphael drawing comprised the figure group only; the background was added by Coypel. Parbury has retained the figure group but changed many of Coypel's background elements.
Some eighteen other signed works by Parbury survive, all of them chased gold watch-cases, but none of them bears such a full signature, with both name, date and London. Two of them are in the British Museum, both undated, one with Renaldo and Armida signed 'Parbury F. Lon.', c. 1730. CAI-253 (on display in the Horological Gallery), the other with Apollo and his lyre signed 'Parbury'. 1912, 11-7,1 (not presently displayed owing to its rather worn condition). A third is in the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford. The others are either in private hands or have passed through the salerooms and their present whereabouts is unknown.
For further information see A.K. Snowman, Gold Boxes of Europe, 2nd ed. Woodbridge 1990, pl. 561; British Museum Magazine Winter 1997 p. 20 and R. Edgcumbe, 'The Art of the Gold Chaser in Eighteenth-Century London', London 2000.
- On display (G46/dc22)
- Associated events
- Associated Event: Marriage of Alexander and Roxanna
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Purchased with a grant of £27,000 from the HLF and £4,000 from the BM Society, the remainder from central funds. Previously on loan to BM since 1986. Purchased by previous owner at Sotheby's, London, 18 June 1979, Lot 24.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number