Description & Technical information

Weight: 160 gr. (5,64 oz.)

The present golden snuff box is very fine crafted and richly detailed. It has been created before the French Revolution and shows an interesting crossover of the Louis XV and the Neoclassical style, which arose in the last quarter of the eighteenth century.

The lid of the box is adorned in the middle with a round medallion surrounded by laurel leaves and which takes a central role in the decorative program of the object. This medallion shows a helmet, a quiver and arrows as well as flowers. These trophies provide obviously a connection to hunting and through these to the person who possessed the box. The hinged lid is furthermore adorned with a reeded, weaves-motif and a frieze of eggs, ears of wheat and bands. The same frieze is to be found on the front-side of the lid. On this frieze, it has been added on four positions (twice in the front- and twice in the back-side), a basket with flowers. The corpus of the box is designed in reeded, rectangular fields which are decorated in-between by four columns. These show the same decorative motifs as on the lid: a quiver, an arrow and flowers. The four columns remind of antique architectural columns and next to the laurel motif on the lid-medallion, they constitute the stylistic references of the coming neoclassicism. Finally, a decorative frieze on the bottom edge of the corpus complements beautifully the design of the box. The bottom of the snuff box is also made out of a large reeded, weavy motif. All three marks are to be found in the interior of the box: at the cover, at the body and at the bottom.

Snuff Boxes

Boxes like the present one were mostly used for snuff tobacco but also for the storage of powder, rouge, pills and dragées. Luxurious snuff boxes – artworks in small – became fashionable in France after the passing of Louis XIV (1715), who – as generally known – had rejected the popular habit of snuffing.

During the eighteenth century, snuff tobacco became not only an interesting source of revenue for the state (through taxes), but also an important and refined social ritual. To that end and accordingly to the fashion requirements of the time, there were many accessories developed for the users of snuff tobacco, which were promoting the social status and aesthetic taste of them. Against this background, gold and silver workers as well as other artists could demonstrate their imaginative power and workmanship on the making of the boxes.

Snuff boxes were made out of several materials. The more expensive the material, all the more important the possessor of the box! Snuff boxes were therefore valuable items of luxury wares and on the same time, they were representing a solid investment. Golden boxes – particularly rich and elaborated in their decoration – were offered by the French monarchs as diplomatic gifts. Such an early example is a golden snuff box decorated with enamel and diamonds in the Louvre(by the maker Daniel Govaers), which was offered in 1726 from Louis XV to the baron Cornelis Hop, then ambassador of the Netherlands (1685-1762).


The Parisian goldsmith Jean Joseph Barrière became in 1763 master maker and was active until 1793. He specialized in golden boxes. The Metropolitan Museum in New York holds a series of his snuff boxes (see for instance two exceptional boxes hereand here). Other known and important works of him are to be seen in the Louvre.

Date:  1771/72
Period:  1750-1850, 18th century
Origin:  France
Medium: gold
Signature: Maker’s mark: “JJB“ under crown and a flower between two points for Jean Joseph Barrière (Rosenberg, no. 6715).

Controller’s mark: a flower for Julien Alaterre (active 1stOct. 1768-30thSept. 1774) (Rosenberg, no. 6524A)

Date letter (for gold): “H” under crown for 1771/2 (Rosenberg, no. 6428; Markezana, p. 25)

Dimensions: 7 x 3 cm (2³/₄ x 1¹/₈ inches)

Yves Markezana, Les poinçons français d’or, d’argent, de platine de 1275 à nos jours, éditions VIAL, 2005.

Marc Rosenberg, Der Goldschmiede Merkzeichen (Band 4): Ausland und Byzanz, Frankfurt am Main: Frankfurter Verl. Anst., 1928.

Categories: Jewellery, Works of Art