A design masterpiece: A simply amazing heavily gilded bronze and black opaline glass or onyx table box or casket, with cushioned red silk moire interior. Almost certainly French and late 19th century. The foliate hinged cover has a recessed mirror resembling a pool of water, with a miniature (7/8in / 2cm) statue finial at its centre. At each of the corners of the top sits a tiny (1/2in / 12mm) gilded reading putti. Each of the the four ornately decorated reeded baluster columns has four standing figures with interlocked arms at its base. The sides are decorated with extremely finely cut and chased gilt motifs of diamond shape, which are mounted inverted on adjacent sides and the whole is supported on six reeded ball and pad feet.
The exterior dimensions are 6.75in wide x 6.75in deep x 6.25in high (17cm wide x 17cm deep x 16cm high) overall. The interior dimensions are 3.5in wide x 3.5in deep x 4in wide (9cm wide x 9cm deep x 10cm wide) Weight 5 lb 14 oz (2.67 kg)
There is something about this box which made it just a "must have" for us. A combination, perhaps, of never having seen anything else remotely like it before and the sheer grandeur of the design which somehow also manages to appear sparse and perfectly proportioned. It is also hard to place its specific origins or even date it other than to an approximate period - the styles in the decoration hark back centuries.
The form looks almost religious, like a temple. The materials are substantial, this is a hefty box at just under 6 pounds in weight. It is both solid and yet also fragile. For example, we suspect that it would only take a sharp tap on the tiny statue on the cover to break the mirror, although we have checked that it could be easily replaced were that to happen. For their size the tiny figures are remarkably well cast, although their features are a little blurred by the heavy gilding. Still, words are not at all enough, you really must see the pictures to appreciate this box. If you are taken by it as much as we were, you won't be able to resist it.
CONDITION: In generally very good condition. Under magnification, we noticed there is a tiny split in the decorating edging which overlaps the mirror on the cover, where a little of the interior lining is also visible (see picture). There is a little rubbing of the gilding at the front of the top. The tiny statue at the centre of the mirror rotates freely although we think it was probably made that way. One of the tiny putti also rotates and they appear to face in different directions but that may be intended too. There is no key for the lock. The material underneath the base is some kind of card, the coated surface of which has a rough texture and is somewhat worn.