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Snuff box c.1763

Vari-coloured gold, glazed cameo applied to lid | 3.9 x 7.9 x 6 cm (whole object, oval) | RCIN 100016

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  • A circular snuff box of vari-coloured gold with hinged lids at either end, finely chased with emblematic scenes of music and the chase. The underside of one lid is mounted with a cameo portrait of Princess Augusta (1768-1840).

    The finely chased scenes emblematic of music and the chase on this otherwise neo-classical box demonstrate the enduring influence of the artist Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) and his followers. Bucolic musical parties and fêtes remained popular subjects for the decoration of gold boxes throughout the eighteenth century. An early nineteenth-century portrait cameo, identified by Queen Mary as Princess Augusta (1768-1840), second daughter of George III, has been applied to the underside of the lid. Another very similar cameo of Princess Augusta was given to Queen Mary by Constance Gaskell in 1944; both appear to be from the same workshop.

    The box was formerly in the collection of George, second Duke of Cambridge (1819-1904). The presence of the cameo suggests that it may have been a gift from Princess Augusta to her brother Adolphus, first Duke of Cambridge (1774-1850). The Cambridge collection of plate, pictures and gold boxes was sold after the death of the second Duke in 1904, although the Duke had once promised Queen Victoria that it would be left to the Crown. Queen Mary, a granddaughter of the first Duke, had been dismayed by the lack of inventories and information about such an important collection of family things: 'Oh! dear, Oh! dear if only I could find the history of all of these things, how interesting it would be', she wrote to her Aunt Augusta. She purchased many items from the Duke's sons prior to the 1904 sale and continued to acquire objects as they appeared on the market for many years thereafter.

    Charge and discharge marks of the fermier-général Jean-Jacques Prévost, Paris, 22 November 1762-22 December 1768 and warden's mark for Paris 13 July 1763-17 July 1764, indistinct maker's mark

    Catalogue entries from Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002 and Gold, London, 2014.

    George, second Duke of Cambridge; by whose executors sold Christie's, London, 10 June 1904 (402), purchased by Gall (£105); given by Queen Mary to King George V, Christmas 1910 (GV Boxes, I, no. 17)

  • Medium and techniques

    Vari-coloured gold, glazed cameo applied to lid


    3.9 x 7.9 x 6 cm (whole object, oval)

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