Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Gifts of Grandeur: The Gustavus III of Sweden Box, 1751

The Gustavus III Box
Swedish, 1751
The Victoria & Albert Museum
We’ve looked at a lot of pretty boxes over the past few years and a half. Here’s one more. This enameled gold box is set with a miniature in watercolor on ivory under glass of Gustavus III of Sweden (1746-1792), surrounded by moonstones.

On the base, a miniature of a double-hulled paddle-wheeled ship has been mounted. On the front, a view of a harbor with warships is displayed. The harbor has been identified as the Swedish naval port of Karlskrona. The hinge side of the box features a scene of a fortification which has been identified as Sveaborg, the Swedish fort which is now part of Helsinki. The box’s ends are also mounted with watercolors on ivory of a Swedish gun barge on one side, and, on the other, a Swedish frigate.

King Gustavus III of Sweden presented this box to Patrick Miller of Dalswinton (1731-1815)—a British banker, inventor and patron of the poet Robert Burns, no earlier than 1791. That’s the date the box was made. King Gustavus III died in 1792 after enduring an infected wound following an assassination attempt at a masked ball. How very Pine Valley-ish.

The box was given to Miller after he offered his double-hulled ship with a paddle wheel to the King. This ship is depicted on the base. The ship--the paddle turned by manpower-- became known in Sweden as “the British sea monster.”

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