Antique French Billet Doux, Marie-Antoinette Era Message Etui
These beautiful boxes were the connection between many romantic interludes and dramas. If we could only hear the little box speak, of all the clandestine rendezvous, the proposals, the words of unsurpassed affection. The beautifully handwritten note would have been carefully written, rolled up and sealed with wax. It would have then been placed in the billet doux, which was immediately and hastily carried by the courier to the recipient.
The quality of this piece is extraordinary. The box is made of a light wood, sanded smooth to accept the paint. The execution of the very charming and romantic hand-painted scenes is remarkable. A young lady pours a glass of wine for her amour in a pastoral scene. A second young man sits behind them with an outstretched hand holding a glass of wine. The detail of the expressions on the faces are portrayed with exacting precision. The colors remain rich and vibrant, painted in the Vernis-Martin style. We have never seen a billet doux painted with such mastery. The inner cylinder (1 1/4" long) is of tortoise shell. The collar ring bands are of French Laiton (a medieval metal made of copper and zinc much resembling brass).
The etui is in very good condition. There is the expected small infrequent chips to the paint (mostly to the top piece of the box, these areas have had restoration to match the colors making the chips hardly noticeable unless closely inspected). The top French laiton collar ring is in perfect condition, completely intact. The bottom French laiton collar ring has a small separation where the ring has been joined together. The inner tortoise shell cylinder is in a perfect state. The measurements are: 4" long, circumference is 3". The diameter is 1".
The extremely high quality of the painting, is indicative of ownership by nobility. Such a piece would have been very expensive to create. This is a fine example from the period of Marie-Antoinette. It's rich history makes it a true treasure. Billet Doux dating before the French Revolution are of the utmost rarity.
Item ID: MT243
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