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A GERMAN VARI-COLOUR GOLD SNUFF-BOX SET WITH A HARDSTONE PLAQUE
A GERMAN VARI-COLOUR GOLD SNUFF-BOX SET WITH A HARDSTONE PLAQUE
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A GERMAN VARI-COLOUR GOLD SNUFF-BOX SET WITH A HARDSTONE PLAQUE

MAKER'S MARK F C WITH CROWN ABOVE, HANAU, CIRCA 1780, THE COVER PLAQUE BY JOHANN-CHRISTIAN NEUBER (1736-1808), DRESDEN, CIRCA 1780/1785

Details
A GERMAN VARI-COLOUR GOLD SNUFF-BOX SET WITH A HARDSTONE PLAQUE MAKER'S MARK F C WITH CROWN ABOVE, HANAU, CIRCA 1780, THE COVER PLAQUE BY JOHANN-CHRISTIAN NEUBER (1736-1808), DRESDEN, CIRCA 1780/1785 rectangular box with canted corners, the cover later set with a plaque of various coloured hardstones laid in a diaper-work pattern, including a variety of transparent and banded agates, carnelian, chalcedony, malachite, turquoise, bloodstone, lapis lazuli and labradorite, framed by thin chased gold borders lined with jasper, the corners and outer frame set with imitation pearls, the sides and base set with panels of sunburst engine-turning, all within vari-colour gold chased foliate borders 3¼ in. (81 mm.) wide

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Lot Essay

French speaking Hugenot jewellers had been attracted to Hanau by the privileges and financial incentives extended by Prince Regent William (1682-1760), later Landgrave William VIII, to anyone who was willing to set up in business in the city. Within a very short period of time, Hanau developed into an important center for luxury goods with some thirty-two bijoutiers involved in the production of gold boxes. In the early 1770s Etienne Flamant, an expert guillocheur originally from Geneva, signed a contract with the leading Hanau goldsmiths for them to supply him with around 385 to 430 gold boxes for decoration every year, which gives some indication of the level of production that existed in the city at this time. The maker of the present box has not been identified, but two gold boxes with the identical marks are recorded by L. Seelig in Golddosen Des 18. Jahrhunderts, Munich, 2007, nos. 41 and 42, pp. 398-401, ill. p. 508. For a discussion on Hanau gold boxes see the essay by L. Seelig, 'Gold Box Production in Hanau: The extended Workbench of Frankfurt and its Trade Fair' in ed. T. Murdoch and H. Zech, Going for Gold, London, 2014, pp. 74-91. The hardstone plaque on the cover of the box is a later alteration and it must be presumed that it was originally either a part of another box by Neuber, or was perhaps a plaque that was bought from the Neuber workshop in Dresden and then later set into a Hanau box. It is known that Neuber advertised a wide range of small objects made from inlaid hardstones including boxes, cane handles, watch-cases, chatelaines, and jewellery such as bracelets and rings, and it may be that he also sold such hardstone plaques to other goldsmiths or visitors to Dresden. Neuber is credited with the development of the technique Zellenmosaik lapidary, literally 'mosaic in cells or compartments', in which hardstone panels are suspended à jour within a fine geometric cagework of gold. The technique is similar to creating cloisonné enamel. His skill lay in creating a unique pattern for each piece using the juxtaposition of the beautifully striated agates found in Schlottwitz in Saxony. The artificial pearls which form the borders on many of his boxes and other objects, were created from cylindrical pieces of glass or rock-crystal, the reverse of which has been hollowed out to form a half-circle. This cavity was then lined with powdered silver to create the effect of a natural pearl.


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