Swiss. An exceptionally fine and rare 18K varicolour gold musical sealing-wax case
Swiss. An exceptionally fine and rare 18K varicolour gold musical sealing-wax case


Swiss. An exceptionally fine and rare 18K varicolour gold musical sealing-wax case
Unsigned, circa 1770/1780
Slightly tapering étui-à-cire of oval form, front and rear sides finely chased and engraved with geometrical design and garlands, three panels on each side decorated with raised varicoloured gold trophies of music and love on frosted ground, slightly domed cover top centred with a varicoloured gold bouquet of flowers on frosted ground, blank matrix, a hinged cover to the pierced lower section opening to reveal the musical movement, gilt-finished musical pin barrel, playing on a nest of five bells via five polished steel hammers, activated by sliding a lever in the case, unsigned
173 mm. long

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Lot Essay

With matching pink gold key.

The present étui-à-cire is believed to be the only example of a sealing-wax case incorporating a musical movement dating from the late 18th century known to exist to date. It is furthermore believed to be one of the smallest musical movements made during the period.

The sumptuous case and the superb, comparatively small musical movement are of extraordinary quality and evidently made by the best Genevan craftsmen of the period.

The 18th century saw an emerging class of rich citizens who used their acquired wealth to indulge a passion for beautiful objects of utility, such as sealing-wax cases, cane stick holders, snuff boxes, nécessaires and others. The manufacture of such objects of vertu flourished, however those featuring an additional ornament such as a musical movement were exceedingly rare. These sumptuous items were only available to aristocrats, dignitaries and wealthy merchants and often used as gifts, notably for the Chinese mandarins.

Preserved in superb overall condition, the present musical sealing-wax case is an exceptional example for such objet d'art, a status symbol underlining the importance of its owner.

As its name implies, an "étui-à-cire" contained the sealing-wax in its unmelted form, the bottom part of the case, also called matrix, would be engraved with the initials, coat-of-arms or other insignia which the owner wished to reproduce as personal mark on the sealing wax.

At a time when gummed envelopes did not exist, sealing-wax was used to "seal" or close letters and envelopes. Seals were, and sometimes still are, used to authenticate documents, applied directly to the face of the document, or attached to the document by cords or ribbons. This helped maintain authenticity by not allowing the reuse of the seal which would break upon removal.

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