I've long been fascinated with the travel kits, military officers vanity valise and etui, cases used in 17th through 19th centuries, and in the inherent beauty of the boxes, themselves, as well as the intricate and immense number of items fitted into their layers. Before I start to describe this particular box, let me just say that some of the very finest were fitted out by Martin-Guillaume Biennais, a Paris silversmith who worked to create those sets destined to become Napoleon's own. You will see his large campaign chest in the Louvre museum; and in our final photo of this listing, we show a smaller one (final photo shows the one like we're selling here), also found in a museum I've traveled to though I didn't note the one. I added the photo to let you see what our listing chest most closely compares to. The ebeniste who made the chests, the perfectly fitted layers of trays into which Biennais' silver vanity items would travel so famously and well, is less famous but certainly this work is also museum quality. Napoleon was known to also commission these for his favorites, and the one we're selling here might well be one of those commissions. The royal ettiquette (monogrammed cartouche) bears a crown, and means it was made for a Royal, titled individual whose initials were H.H., so you might well be able to research more about the chest. And this one has a lock plate designating it to Vervelle, one of the most respected and lauded ebenistes of all France historically. I'm wondering if Vervelle ebenistes did, in fact, create the boxes for Biennais.
I think the first antique I ever bought on my own was a box. I love boxes! The old campaign or travel boxes in particular speak to me, since I'm not only a box collector, but collector of travel and memories of destinations associated with same. I have kept this box for many years. I think it's the finest fitted box I've ever owned. I remain fascinated by the amazing creation of these sets and the caskets that so beautifully housed the many implements of essential travel for the elite Frenchman of the 1700s to 1900s. A feat of engineering and carving unparalleled. Just look it over. All of the box's parts are intact herein, each layer, each tray. The implements that would have once filled it are long since lost or disbursed individually (sadly) but without those you can see and enjoy this as the work of art it truly is. Nowhere is the art of cabinetry making more elevated that in the old French boxes. And this one is pristine. Look it over.
Very good to excellent condition for age and type. The box is over 200 years old and hardly has a surface rub or line. The interior fittings and trays are all intact and not a chip or crack among them. Alas, while it was once completely fitted with specialized travel vanity tools, jars, implements, at this time only the box remains. Solid hardwood, heavy old growth forest's finest, it is a personal favorite among my own collections. Still with the original working lock and key. Three elegantly fitted lift-out trays, so perfectly fitted, it's like a puzzle. Measures 9.5" x 7.25" and is 4" high when closed. If it were complete with all the implements, it would bring $8000 or higher among collectors.
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Antique French sterling silver, Georgian jewelry, sewing, Black Forest, etc 17th to 19th c. European
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