Powdered tobacco was given the name of “snuff” (snuif) by Dutch users in the 16th century. When it first reached England, snuff was the stuff reserved for the upper classes. Queen Charlotte, King George III’s wife, had an entire room devoted to her snuff stock at Windsor Castle, and was even referred to as “Snuffy Charlotte” behind her back. In Victorian times, snuff was often promoted as having health benefits.
For those of lesser means than the Queen, snuff boxes were originally made in two sizes; one for carrying in pockets, and another for table use. Pocket boxes were intended to keep the snuff for just a day or two, whereas the larger ones for the home were used to keep the supply handy for an extended time.
Many papier mache boxes were made in Germany and France. The boxes would keep snuff in relatively good condition as long as the hinges were tight and the lids closed well to keep out air. The lids were often adorned with portraits or classical scenes that were popular with the masses. This mid-19th century snuff box was decorated with a romantic vignette of a seated young lady as her dog looks lovingly upon her, while her suitor is viewing the entire scene in back of them. The scene recalls the work of the short-lived French master painter, Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), whose paintings can be seen in The Louvre.
The side panels are decorated with roses and other flowers, as well as the bottom panel. When the box is opened there is a quaint painted landscape on the inside of the lid. This box had its motifs outlined in gilt along the sides and the top.
It is in very good overall original condition, with no chips, cracks or missing pieces of papier mache. The hinges are in good order and the lid rests well. As with most such boxes from this period, the original varnish has darkened. There is some wear to the bottom panel, but the enamel painting is still pronounced.
It measures 4-3/8 inches wide, 2 inches deep and 1-1/2 inches high.
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