Monday, September 23, 2013

Gifts of Grandeur: The Joseph-Etienne Blerzy Snuffbox, 1775-1776

Click on image to enlarge.

France, 1775-1776
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Another snuffbox from the collection of Sir Arthur and Rosalinde Gilbert, this one is a true masterpiece of translucent red enamel over an engine-turned background. One would think that engine-turned patterns would be easier to produce than those engraved by hand, but, in reality, precise engine-turning requites a vast amount of skill from the operator who must constantly be alert that the individual portions of the design line up properly. Another difficult task in this process is ensuring that the engraving isn’t too deep and that the depth remains consistent. Therefore, this snuffbox is a triumph and a glorious example of the workmaster’s skill. 

This is the work of Joseph-Etienne Blerzy, a French goldsmith working in Paris. It was made between 1775 and 1776, and, I should note that the jeweled monogram “LM” came at a later date. The rectangular box features canted corners and is adorned with a white border of enamel and enameled fruiting foliage and pilasters draped with swags. The interlaced ribbon of rose-cut diamonds is original to the piece, but, as I said, it’s believed that the diamond monogram was added in the Nineteenth Century.

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