Sunday, June 1, 2014

Gifts of Grandeur: The Balloon Snuffbox, 1785-1795

Click image to enlarge.

Snuffbox of varicolored gold.
Switzerland, 1785-1795
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This nifty snuffbox features a lid which is decorated with a central trophy composed of depictions of a balloon and scientific instruments. These images are meant to represent Science, while, on the base, a a trophy of musical instruments and a score, signifies Music.

A hot-air balloon like the one pictured here was a relatively new phenomenon when this box was made, between 1785 and 1795. Notably, in 1783 France, a manned flight was achieved with both gas and hot-air balloons, and, on October 19, 1783, Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier flew with two people on the first free flight. 

The snuffbox was made in Switzerland for export to other part of Europe. It is composed of varicolored gold which has been chased, engraved and matted. 

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