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The Gilbert Collection
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The Victoria & Albert Museum
Frederick the Great of Russia was a keen fancier of snuffboxes and amassed a gorgeous collection. Here, we see one of them. We’re not sure who served as goldsmith on this piece, but records indicate that it was modeled after a design by Jean Guillaume George Krüger (1728-1791)--a London-born artist who had been summoned to Berlin in 1753.
Twenty of his designs for snuffboxes survive. The majority of those boxes were made prior to 1774 when the designer moved to Paris. Curiously, this one is thought to have been made between 1775 and 1780—well after its brothers and sisters.
Now part of the bequest of Sir Arthur and Rosalinde Gilbert to the V&A, the cartouche-shaped snuffbox is comprised of seventeen panels of bloodstone which are mounted in a cage-work of gold. The panels are densely set with an impressive array of diamonds, some of which are natural yellow and others of which are foiled to create a different color. The cover of the box is set with a depiction of a vase which has been colored to resemble porphyry. In this case is set a bouquet of stylized flowers which are made up of emeralds, rubies and diamonds.
A border of diamonds set in gold and representations of sprigs of flowers echoes the design of the walls of the box. These sections are divided into six reserves, each set with sprays of flowers. The base is encrusted with diamonds as well, and depicts a smaller bouquet of cut flowers.