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A SWISS JEWELLED ENAMELLED GOLD VINAIGRETTE GENEVA, CIRCA 1830 formed as a dragon's head and set with a gold-mounted garnet, the tapering body with taille d'épargne brightly coloured painted enamel, with simulated scalework in many varying patterns and designs, translucent orange enamel eyes, the mouth with hinged jaw and bared teeth concealing the vinaigrette with pierced foliate grille, the neck with seed pearl border and gold screw-top engraved with a European royal crown, opening to reveal a small compartment, the sides with thread for a cane or parasol, in fitted brown leather case 3 in. (70 mm.) high

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Lot Essay

Geneva was at the crossroads of the important trade routes at a time when there were few accessible ways of crossing the Alps and so was visited by many foreign tourists and traders. It was also a place of refuge for protestants fleeing from persecution in other parts of Europe and they brought their skills and trades with them. Geneva had no natural resources, so there was an opportunity for these highly skilled craftsmen, such as refugee watchmakers from France and Germany, to develop their industry in a city already famous as a centre of excellence for its goldsmiths. They concentrated on foreign markets, particularly China, Turkey and India where there was a huge demand for high quality gold watches. The popularity of these enamelled and pearl-set watches served to encourage the production of similarly decorated snuff-boxes and other objects of vertu. In addition to boxes, étuis, scent-bottles, carnet-de-bals and vinaigrettes were enamelled with many-hued flowers, often in strongly contrasting colours, sometimes with seed pearl borders or overlaid with diamonds, and these found favour with the Chinese, Turkish and Near Eastern markets. Fantasy boxes made lavish use of enamel and these were made in the shape of fruit, animals, flowers, birds, butterflies, snakes and, as in the present example, dragons. A foundation of neutral colour fondant was spread over the gold object and then fired. Onto this base the artist then painted with enamel colours which were individually fired and then finished with a transparent enamel glaze. This glaze hardened and was then polished to produce a glossy, translucent protective covering. Vinaigrettes were widely used in Europe from the late 18th to the late 19th Century. In a time where the odours of everyday life were omnipresent and challenging, a lady or a gentleman could spare themselves the reality by carrying a vinaigrette containing a suitably scented sponge.

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