Sunday, October 20, 2013

Gifts of Grandeur: The Saxony Lamb Snuffbox, 1755

Dresden, 1755
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Bertie wants this. So do I actually. Here, we see a jeweled, gold-mounted amethystine quartz snuffbox surmounted by a sheep which has been naturalistically carved from white quartz. The lamb has ruby-set eyes and is lying on a field of purple quartz. The base is carved in relief with a bucolic scene of a shepherdess and sheep in a fanciful landscape. The gold mount is chased with scrolls and a floral design and is set with a ruby and diamond floral thumbpiece.
The area of Saxony was rich in minerals and hardstones such as these. This wealth of materials led to a renaissance of lapidary (polished stone) work. Dresden—where this box was made--became the home to a treasury which housed the famous Green Vault (as it was known) which was known to house luxury objects such as this.

We’re unsure of the maker of the box, but it certainly comes from Dresden and matches the quality and style of the lapidary work which was produced in the mid 1750s. This box forms part of an important collection which was amassed by Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde who formed one of the world's great decorative art collections. The Gilberts donated their extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996 and it is on display at the V&A.

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