Saturday, June 21, 2014

Gifts of Grandeur: The Harrods Shoe Snuffbox, c. 1870

Snuffbox, 1870-1880
The Talbot Collection at
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the Nineteenth Century, boots and shoes were symbols of good luck. So, it was only natural that trinkets and personal objects should take the form of footwear. This snuffbox, dating between 1870 and 1880, is an excellent example of that phenomenon. The box is made in the shape of a fashionable Victorian lady’s button-boot of the 1860s. It is even adorned with metal studs just like the real thing would have been. The top of the boot forms the container for the snuff.

It’s a sure thing that this box was made in England, but other similar examples were imported from France at the time. The lid of the box is missing, but it’s still quite attractive. While most collectible snuffboxes were made of golf, hardstone or precious metals, some—like these novelty boxes—were made of wood. The mahogany box has been carefully hand painted, partly ebonized, and adorned with brass stringing, brass nails in the sole and heel, and brass and mother-of-pearl buttons.

Now part of the V&A’s Talbot Hughes Collection, the box was originally donated to the V&A by Messrs. Harrods of London in 1913. 

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