- Museum number
Snuff-box and Cover; soft-paste porcelain; glazed; lower part of bombé form, flat cover, silver-gilt mount with thumbpiece; ornamented with gold in relief, partly enamelled in emerald green; on the cover a Chinese figure seated on a rock holding a bird opposite a tree in which a fox is perched; at right is a pagoda; a rosette each side and a X motif below; on the lower part three groups of a medallion head within a strapwork surround, separated by rosettes, fleur-de-lys and shell and branch motifs; marked only on silver-gilt mount.
- Production date
- 1733 (mount)
Length: 8.70 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Dawson 1994
Where the gold is missing, a clear glaze-like substance is visible, on to which the gold, in the form of foil, appears to have been pressed. The green enamel is held in depressions or cages of differing outline. Both gold and enamel have been attached to the porcelain by means of a low-temperature firing. The surface of the gold is finely worked to depict contours and details to dress, leaves etc.
The medallion heads are related to those in the frontispiece of the first volume of ‘Parodies du Nouveau Théâtre Italien’, 1738,¹ the engraving signed 'Mathey fecit'. The source of the orientalising ornament is unknown. In style the decoration is midway between the stiff, formalised Régence and rococo fantasy. The shape of the box betrays its rococo inspiration.
Technically the decoration is peculiar to a small group of pieces including the toilet pots (reg. nos Franks.344 and Franks.344A) which are attributed to the Saint-Cloud factory. The decoration may well have been done outside the factory by a member of the guild of ‘paillonneurs’, but this has not yet been securely established.² In the present state of knowledge, even the origin of the porcelain, invariably unmarked, is not entirely certain.
1. There is a copy of this in the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Paris.
2. For a survey of gold relief decoration on various materials, see A. Dawson, Gold foil decoration on enamel, glass and porcelain: a new look, ‘Burlington Magazine’, Vol. CXXXII, no. 1046, May 1990, pp. 336-42.
Comparable Examples: USA, New York, Parke-Bernet, 3 April 1948, Lot 237, Mrs H. Dupuy Collection (previously Gilbert Lévy, Paris).
Literature: Franks, Sir Augustus Wollaston, ‘Catalogue of a Collection of Continental Porcelain’, London, 1896, no. 345; Chavagnac, comte Xavier de and Grollier, marquis de, ‘Histoire des manufactures françaises de porcelaine’, Paris, 1906, p. 22; Tait, Hugh, ‘Porcelain’, London, 1962, pl. XVII; revised ed. 1972, pl. 27.
- On display (G46/dc16)
- Slight losses of gold and green enamel.
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number