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40 Rearest Snuff Boxes

Give me women, wine, and snuff
Untill I cry out "hold, enough!"
You may do so sans objection
Till the day of resurrection:
For, bless my beard, they aye shall be
My beloved Trinity.

John Keats

Christopher Columbus introduced tobacco into Europe after his voyage (1494-96) to South America. There he saw American Indians snuffing an unknown powder, some of which Columbus brought back to Europe, where it quickly became fashionable.

Mother of Pearl Snuff Box, 1765

In the 16th century French Ambassador in Lisbon Jean Nicot sent snuff tobacco, popular in Portugal, to Queen of France Catherine de Medici, who suffered from migraines. And that immortalized his name. It was believed that sniffing tobacco healed migraine. At the court of Francis II of France, son of Catherine, snuff tobacco became fashionable amongst the ladies and gentlemen of the aristocracy, and at the reign of Louis XIV it was part of the court etiquette.
Aristocracy was passionate about its snuff habits and even built special rooms for storing their snuff.

Chrysoprase, Berlin, 1755

Splendid noblemen used to treat each other with snuff tobacco while the containers for it were luxury items and were considered as jewelery variety, they were supposed to be handled with the utmost elegance and intended to impress. Made of silver and gold, rich in detail, adorned with precious stones, sometimes playing popular melodies while being opened, snuff-boxes rooted into the everyday life of all levels of the population and were an indispensable accessory for men and women too. Even Andersen's tin soldier in the fairy tale admired the beautiful dancer leaning against the snuff-box on the table.

Black Marble Snuff Box, Berlin, 1765

A Highly Important Saxon 'Stein-Cabinet' and Gold Snuff Box With Secret Compartment Containing Original Stone Specification Booklet
by Christian Gottlieb Stiehl (1708-1792), Dresden, circa 1770-1775, sold at Christie's for $1,369,349.

Circular snuff-box inlaid with 154 numbered specimens of hardstones from Saxon mines arranged in a wavy pattern, the hinged lid inlaid with four concentrical rows of different semi-translucent shaped hardstone plaques within gold mounts. 3 1/16 in (78 mm) diam. Christian Gottlieb Stiehl, one of the best masters of his time, was appointed Saxon Court Gemcarver in 1753; he received a state pension in 1780.
Closest to the present box are the two Stiehl boxes from the collection of King Farouk and the box in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, Italy. Apart from these three circular boxes, two oval boxes by Stiehl are recorded, one in the Louvre, and another one sold at Sotheby's in 1997.

Swiss Gold, Enamel and Gem-Set Snuff Box, Geneva, circa 1845

A Gilt-Metal Mounted Meissen Snuff Box and cover, circa 1730

Gold, Enamel and Gem-Set Snuff Box, German, circa 1850

A Fine French Gold and Hem-Set Snuff Box, Paris, 1860

Gold and Enamel, German, 1880, ($37,000 at Christies)

Gold, Enamel, Gem Set, Swiss, 1848. The Blue Guilloché Enamel Cover Applied with Diamond-Set Initial and Crown of Napoleon III.

Gold and Enamel, Geneva, 1775, $133,000. Painted Genre Scenes Based on Original Compositions by Fragonard

A German Gold-Mounted Porcelain Tripple Snuff Box, Painted in the Manner of Watteau, 1750, $40,000; 3 3/8 in. (87 mm.) wide, used to belong to Baron Max von Goldschmidt-Rothschild (1843-1940).

Dresden, 1750

An Important Swiss Enamelled Gold Snuff Box, 1840; $297,000; the cover inset with a fine micromosaic depicting a waterfall in a mountainous landscape, 3 3/8 in. (87 mm.) wide.

($187,000) An Exceptional and Rare Gold Musical Automaton Snuff Box, 1820, most probably Russian The cover encloses a scene of the interior of a music room with vari-colour gold detail automaton of a lady seated, playing a xylophone, a conductor keeping time with a baton and a small boy accompanying with a triangle, standing beside a sleeping dog, the room behind in painted enamel with drapes and furnishings, with applied oval enamel plaque of blue guilloche set with diamond Cyrillic monogram EP, that of Elena Pavlovna, née Princess Charlotte of Württemberg (1807-1873). Elena Pavlovna was a patron of the Russian Musical Society and on a visit in 1867, Hector Berlioz was invited to play with the society.

A Louis XV Enamelled Gold Snuff Box, Paris, 1753; ($18,500)

A German Paste-Set and Enamelled Gold Royal Presentation Snuff Box, 1880. A Royal crown above paste-set scrolling initial 'A' for Albert I (1828-1902), King of Saxony 1873-1902. According to an old handwritten label inside the box, 'given to my father George Edward Cokayne by Albert King of Saxony in 1882 on his investiture with the "Garter".' Albert I, King of Saxony, was the eldest son of King Johann I of Saxony. As a king, he was highly intelligent and noted for his kindness. He died without posterity and was succeeded by his younger brother, the future King George I of Saxony. $12,000

An Unusual Louis XV Enamelled Gold Snuff Box, Paris, 1763. 2¾ in. (69 mm.) wide.

A Dresden Style Jewelled Gold, Enamelled and Mother of Pearl Snuff Box, Germany or Austria

An Empire Parcel Enamelled Gold Snuff Box With an Enamel Miniature depicting King Louis XIV of France (1638-1715), facing right in armour, wearing the blue sash of the Royal French Order of the Holy Ghost, long curly wig, within a border stamped with stylized acanthus on a sablé gold panel stamped with a laurel wreath tied at the base with a ribbon; $46,800; 3 5/16 in. (84 mm.) wide

A Fine George III Seed-Pearl Bordered Parcel-Enamelled Gold and Hardstone Snuff Box, English, circa 1780/1800; ($34,800)

A Saxon Silver-Gilt Mounted Hardstone Snuff Box, Dresden, 1750

A Very Fine and Important Louis XV Jewelled Vari-Color Gold Snuff Box, Paris, 1742;($162,000)

A Rare Early Louis XV Gold Mounted Japanese Lacquer Snuff Box, 1733; $50,000

A Fine Continental Enamelled Gold Snuff Box with Watercolor Miniature in a Secret Compartment purportedly depicting Betty de Rothschild and her two eldest children. Betty de Rothschild (1805-1886) was the daughter of Salomon von Rothschild. In 1824, she was married to her uncle Baron James Mayer de Rothschild (1792-1868). The curly child with pink bows would depict Charlotte de Rothschild (1825-1890), the eldest child and only daughter of James and Betty, and the baby with blue bows would be Alphonse de Rothschild (1827-1905), their eldest son. Russian or Swiss, 1828.

A Fine French Enamel and Gold Snuff Box. The enamels on the lid and on the base are after paintings by Jean-Baptiste Greuze. The cover depicts L'Accordée de Village (now in the Louvre), exhibited by Greuze in 1761.The enamel on the base is after La lecture de la Bible (now in Paris, private collection), which was exhibited by Greuze at the Salon in 1755. These paintings, typical for Greuze's choice of unjaded subject matters from a lost world of innocence and obedience, were extremely popular and are often seen as decoration on snuff-boxes.

A French Gold Snuff Box with a Miniature depicting Marie-Louise Empress of France (1791-1847) then Duchess of Parma, facing right in frill-edged low-cut gold-embroidered white dress, wearing the cross of the Constantinian Order of St Georges of Parma and diamond studded jewellery including a tiara, ferronnière and earrings. A daughter of Emperor Francis I of Austria, Marie-Louise was married to Napoleon I and became Empress of France. After the fall of the Empire, she was compensated by the Duchy of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla 1814-1847. As such, Marie-Louise considered herself as the legitimate heir of the Farnese dynasty (extinct since 1731), her late mother Maria-Theresa of Bourbon-Sicilies' relations adding to this claim. On 13 February 1816, Marie-Louise declared herself officially Grand Master of the Constantinian Order of St George, which caused the wrath of the Bourbons who had claimed this order for their family. In the present miniature, Marie-Louise is proudly displaying 'her' order together with her rich jewellery. (sold for $10,000)

German, Meissen Porcelain, 1755

Mother of Pearl and Shell, French, Paris, 1819. (sold for $53,000)

A German Parcel-Enamelled Gold Snuff Box with Miniature of Prince Carl of Prussia (1801-1883), wearing the breast-star of the Royal Prussian Order of the Black Eagle and the badge of the Royal Prussian Order of the Red Eagle. 3¼ in. (82 mm.) wide; $25,000.

A Swiss Vari-Color Gold Snuff Box with Diamond-Bordered Miniature depicting a young lady in fur-bordered red coat, green dress with lace-underdress, purple silk choker, long green scarf with gold tassels and purple plume in her hair. Purportedly presented by Empress Catherine the Great of Russia to Camille de Labensky, Russian Ambassador at the court of Hesse-Darmstadt. 1770, sold for $40,000.

A Louis XV Jewel-set and Enamelled Snuff Box, Paris, 1753. Ingot-shaped Chinoiserie box engraved with interwoven bands, the cover enamelled with a scene of a lady in a garden holding a parrot and attended by three servants, the base with a lady fishing on an island, a Chinaman rowing a boat in the background, the front side wall with a seated Chinaman and a boy with bottles in a basket, the rear wall with an archer shooting a bird, the ends with Chinamen taming and hunting exotic birds, the surrounding foliage in translucent emerald-green basse-taille enamel, the raised scrolling silver-gilt thumbpiece reeded and studded with old-mine cut diamonds. ($130.000)

Gold-Mounted Hardstone Snuff Box with Shell and Ivory Applications, Austrian, 1799

A Fine Louis XVI Jewelled and Enamelled Gold Snuff Box with a Miniature depicting the Comtesse Dubarry (1741-1793) wearing jewelled earrings and a gold medallion containing the initials LD, who declared that she was the only woman who made him forget he was 70-something. Presented at court in 1768, she caught the fancy of the ageing king Louis XV who declared that she was the only woman who made him forget he was 70-something. He married her off to comte Guillaume du Barry, in order to qualify her as his official court mistress. She wielded considerable influence on the king, often with disastrous political consequences such as the downfall of finance minister Choiseul and the rise of the triumvirate of her favorites Maupeou, d'Aiguillon and Terray. An important patron of the arts and of the jewellery trade, she squandered vast sums of state money. On the king's death in 1774, she was immediately banished from court by King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette. At the French Revolution, she emigrated to London but returned to Paris in order to retrieve her hidden jewels and was caught by the Revolutionaries, tried and guillotined in 1793. $73,000.

German, 1830

>A Very Fine and Rare Louis XV Jewelled Gold Snuff Box by François Marteau, Paris, 1743. Boxes by François Marteau are of outstanding rarity. $220,000

A Swiss Gem- and Pearl-Set Vari-Color Gold Snuff Box for the Oriental Market, Geneva, 1830

A Louis XV-Style Jewelled Gold and Shell Snuff Box, $30,000

Florence, circa 1800; sold for $200,000

A Very Fine Louis XV Parcel Enamelled Four-Color Gold Snuff Box, $166.000

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