A Pretty Late 18th Century Papier Mâché Casket Snuff Box


Origin: French
Period: Late Eighteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1790
Height: 1.5 inches
Width: 2.5 inches
Depth: 1.5 inches

The two piece snuff, in casket form having hand painted cartouche to top with heart and garland amidst a landscape to the centre encircled by laurels, the sides and base with further botanical decoration featuring roses and leaves all being picked out in ruby red and midnight green over an ivory painted ground.     

Remaining airtight and in good structural condition the box only has some minor flaking to the paint work with only a handful of small areas of loss, but no cracks or splits to the sides, bottom or top.

Papier mâché became an industry in England in 1772 when Henry Clay of Birmingham took out a patent for its making and as a result produced the inexpensive plastic of its time, easily be molded into desired shapes. As indicated by its name, it was mashed or pulped paper, which was first, molded, then baked, to drive off the moisture that had reduced it to pulp. When it became firm and hard it was finished with an enamel-like coat of paint and was then ready for a wide variety of decorative treatment.

Romantically themed, this is a very sweet, nicely proportioned, and thoroughly charming little box.