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A HIGHLY IMPORTANT SAXON 'STEIN-CABINET' AND GOLD SNUFF-BOX WITH SECRET COMPARTMENT CONTAINING ORIGINAL STONE SPECIFICATION BOOKLET
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price plus bu… Read more PROPERTY FROM A SWISS PRIVATE COLLECTION
A HIGHLY IMPORTANT SAXON 'STEIN-CABINET' AND GOLD SNUFF-BOX WITH SECRET COMPARTMENT CONTAINING ORIGINAL STONE SPECIFICATION BOOKLET

BY CHRISTIAN GOTTLIEB STIEHL (1708-1792), DRESDEN, CIRCA 1770/1775, STRUCK WITH TWO UNIDENTIFIED, PROBABLY DRESDEN TOWN MARKS

Details
A HIGHLY IMPORTANT SAXON 'STEIN-CABINET' AND GOLD SNUFF-BOX WITH SECRET COMPARTMENT CONTAINING ORIGINAL STONE SPECIFICATION BOOKLET
by Christian Gottlieb Stiehl (1708-1792), Dresden, circa 1770/1775, struck with two unidentified, probably Dresden town marks
Circular snuff-box inlaid with 154 numbered specimens of hardstones from Saxon mines arranged in a wavy pattern, the hinged lid inlaid with four concentrical rows of different semi-translucent shaped hardstone plaques within gold mounts numbered from 1 to 56 around a reddish moss agate central rosette, all mounted à jour to give a stained glass effect, the gold-lined base similarly decorated with different hardstone plaques numbered from 99 to 154, the sides with three rows of various hardstone plaques numbered from 57 to 98, reeded gold rims; the base fitted with a secret compartment at the engraved front base mount releasing a gold tray bearing the rectangular handwritten specification booklet when a concealed lever at the rear of the base mount is pushed, the booklet listing the 154 stones bound in green silk and titled: 'Specification de toutes les Pierres qu'on trouve en Saxe avec leurs nomi nations . 1742.'
3 1/16 in. (78 mm.) diam.
Provenance
Sotheby's, London, 3 July 1967, lot 120.
Special Notice

VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price plus buyer's premium
Post Lot Text
(BASE OF BOX ILLUSTRATED ON CATALOGUE BACK COVER)

Lot Essay

Christian Gottlieb Stiehl was appointed Saxon Court Gemcarver ('Hofsteinschneider') in 1753, working at the Electoral Mineralienkabinett until he received a state pension in 1780. Walter Holzhausen (Johann Christian Neuber, Dresden, 1935, p. 23) praised him as 'certainly one of the best masters of his time'. In contrast to his almost thirty years younger follower Johann Christian Neuber, Stiehl specialised in mounting the thinly cut semi-translucent stones à jour on the lids of his boxes, so that, from the outside, the upward reflection of the gold lining in the base gave a special warm shine to the semi-translucent stones on the cover. This procedure was nevertheless sometimes imitated by Neuber. The secret drawer containing the specification booklet hidden in the lower front mount and released by pressing a spring-catch in the rear bottom rim is also specific to Stiehl. Closest to the present box are the two Stiehl boxes from the collection of King Farouk (Sotheby's, Koubbeh Palace, Cairo, 13 March 1954, lots 700 and 705) and the box in the Palazzo Pitti, illustrated in Stephen Lloyd's exhibition catalogue Richard & Maria Cosway, Edinburgh, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1995, p. 48, fig. 7. Apart from these three circular boxes, two oval boxes by Stiehl are recorded, one in the Louvre, illustrated in S. Grandjean, Les tabatières du musée du Louvre, Paris, 1981, no. 434, and another one sold at Sotheby's, Geneva, 17 November 1997, lot 248, mentioned in Holzhausen (op. cit., fig. 51 and 53).
The two marks at the inside of the base are identical to those on a box by Neuber in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (gift of John Pierpont Morgan, inv. no. 17-190-1115) and may be Dresden town hallmarks.
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