Ca 1770 Sceaux heart-shaped polychrome enameled porcelain bonbonniere with silver mounts. Hand painted miniature scene on domed lid titled, 'La Joueuse de Vielle' (The Hurdy-gurdy Player), the sides decorated with florals and swags. Created at the faience and porcelain factory at Sceaux, just south of Paris, and likely made between 1763 and 1772, the 9 year span when the painter Joseph Jullien and the sculptor Charles-Symphorien Jacques were joint Directors. This was just after the Seven Years War ended and the Sèvres royal monopoly on painted and gilded porcelain was no longer enforced. Jullien and Jacques eventually also purchased the lease to the Mennecy porcelain factory in 1765 and produced similar articles there. But this comfit or sweets box is clearly marked with 'Sceaux' handwritten in blue so there is no difficulty identifying at which porcelain factory it was made.
Some wear evident in the word 'Vielle' in the title and another small area of wear in the green framing the scene, top left just under the J in Joueuse. Otherwise in excellent condition, no chips, cracks or repairs. The interior surfaces of the box are pristine white, the clasp works perfectly, as do both hinges, which work easily but still have a firm enough grip to be able to hold the lid open, should you wish to display it that way. Measures 3 inches from hinge to closure, 2 1/4 inches across at it's widest and 1 3/4 inches tall.
When the courtly arts of late 17th and early 18th-century France merged for a time with more traditional national folk traditions the Baroque style of music blended with traditional folk tunes, for which the hurdy-gurdy had always been the ideal instrument for expression. While artists portrayed noble love and courtship in paintings that showed aristocratic figures in scenes with pastoral overtones, to play out those fanciful Rococo or Gallant style scenes in real life, rustic picnics and parties were set to music in lush outdoor settings, the Fetes-Galants, and the French aristocracy enjoyed the music of the hurdy-gurdy (or Vielle à Roue, the wheel viol in French). An instrument familiar to European peasants since medieval times it quickly became a popular instrument at court.
Although the hurdy-gurdy began to decline as a salon instrument by the 1760s it continued to be employed by street musicians strolling through towns playing the popular tunes of the day for money. This is the type of scene we see painted on the lid. The street down which the lovely young lady is portrayed strolling, playing her instrument and singing, may very well have actually been within the town of Sceaux and, if so, the scene would depict how the town looked in the 18th century. The wonderful painted scene and other decorations along with its unusual heart shape probably imparted special meaning to its original owner, who would have been of the upper class as during this period porcelain and the sugary contents bonbonniere's were made to hold were both expensive purchases.
The Sceaux factory operated under the patronage of Anne-Louise Bénédicte, duchesse du Maine and after her death, that of her son, Louis Jean Marie de Bourbon, Duke of Penthièvre. Today the Château de Sceaux showcases finely manicured grounds and a public museum displaying rooms of period furniture, works of art and examples of items made at the Sceaux porcelain factory in the 18th century. From my shop's home page click on Favorite Links on the lower right to access a link to a brief auditory file of a Symphonia being played, an early type of Hurdy-gurdy instrument.
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COLLECTION: A time machine on a shelf; a museum in the kitchen. Reach out to touch the memory of sweet childhood laughter.