Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mastery of Design: The Putti Snuffbox, 1750

Click images to enlarge.
German Snuffbox
Circa 1750
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

I always like the snuffboxes that are constructed of different media. Typically, we see examples made of precious metals or porcelain, but every so often, we get one of shell or bone which is just lovely. This one is made of tortoiseshell—a medium which found its way into a variety of the decorative arts.

The cartouche-shaped box depicts a scene of putti playing in a fountain—as they do. It’s quite a clever use of carious precious materials. The pilasters with their scrolling decoration are made of inlaid gold while the putti themselves are rendered in ivory. Mother-of-pearl inlay forms the fountain while lapis lazuli and malachite add notes of blue and green respectively to the piece.

There’s no doubt as to the Rococo influence here. Made around 1750, this box is a nifty example of a German take on the Rococo. There’s some debate about just where in Germany the box was made. Some say Southern Germany, particularly Bavaria, while others insist that the piece was constructed in Berlin.

The sides are adorned with more putti and gold shells while the base is engraved with a gold rocaille. The reeded mount comes alive with shell and the scrolled thumb-piece adds interest to the front. Today, the box forms part of the magnificent Gilbert Collection at the V&A.

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