With the intricate inlay pattern and large size (11" x 6 1/2" tall), this exquisite letter hold is an exceptionally striking piece. It dates from the period of Napoleon III (1852-1870) and comes from Paris.
The box has a handsome shape, with a beautifully domed lid. The lid is inlaid with an extensive design of brass (with a cartouche in the center, to hold engraved initials). The motif features a large flower with arabesques , scrolls, tendrils and flower shapes surrounding it. There is a little round brass knob at the center. The front bottom panel has two horizontal bands of brass inlay featuring arabesques, flowers and scrolls. The inlay is worked into the red and brown shell background and is truly a work of art. The box does have a fancy brass key and lock (working).
The back and two sides of the box are wood which has been finished with black lacquer. There is a 1/4" wide gilded brass ormolu on all sides (some screws have been replaced) which has a decorative design of scrolls and flowers).
The box opens to reveal a burgundy velvet lined file case for holding letters. The bottom interior and inside under the lock lined with burgundy paper (some missing pieces of paper). There are three compartments ascending to the top of the box (2" deep, 4 1/2" deep, 5" deep, 6" deep). The tops of the section separations have a fanciful scrolling design. There was once a fancy braid to trip the top inside edges, only the imprint of the trim remains. The bottom of the box is lined with red felt.
The box is in very good/good condition. There are two very small light round indentations to the box on the front mid-left panel, some slight age cracks to the shell, very few tiny missing pieces of shell. Only the tiniest bit or two of missing brass inlay (which is unusual in pieces like this) is noted. The wood lacquered sides and back are in good condition. The velvet interior has hardly any wear.
This is a spectacular piece. Letter boxes are a rare find, especially in the condition of this example (as they were used daily,they are among the pieces with the most wear).