Francis Harrache is known to have entered a smallworker's mark as 'Silversmith att ye Seven Dyals in great St. Andrew Street att ye Blackmoors head St. Gilses' on 16 February 1737/1738 (Goldsmiths' Hall Registers Vol. A1 Smallworkers, p. 26) and is recorded at that address by Heal as 'silversmith and toyman' from 1732 to 1758 (The London Goldsmiths 1200-1800 A Record of the Names and Addresses of the Craftsmen their Shop-signs and Trade-cards, Newton-Abbot, 1972, p. 164). The Poor Rate Books for the parish St Giles record Francis Harrache as a ratepayer in Great St Andrew Street from 1741/42 to 1753 when the house was taken over by the watchcase maker James Freshfield. Harrache is then recorded as a ratepayer in the neighbouring Little Earl Street from 1754 until his death in 1757. He was buried, alongside nine of his children, in Paddington Churchyard on 23 August 1757.
Engine-turning, or guilloché, is a form of decorative engraving accomplished with the use of an engine. Early machines used to decorate gold boxes are thought to have been adapted from ornamental or rose engine lathes, used on materials like ivory, wood and tortoiseshell from as early as the 15th century. Examples of engine-turning on silver dated from the early 18th century and origined from Germany, but it was not until the mid-18th century that the technique appeared on gold boxes, predominantly on those made in Paris. It has been suggested that the earliest known engine-turned gold box, now in the Wallace Collection, was made in Paris in 1740/41 by Pierre Croissant. The box is engine-turned on the cover with wavy lines radiating from the centre, and horizontal wavy lines on the sides. In the 1750s engine-turning took over from chasing as the more fashionable method of decorating gold boxes and was a technique employed by goldsmiths like Jean Ducrollay. A rectangular gold double-snuff-box by this maker which has been engine-turned with undulating ribbons over a reeded ground is illustrated in C. Truman, The Gilbert Collection of Gold Boxes, Los Angeles, 1991, pp. 54-55, no. 12, and another engine-turned box with a trellis-work pattern was sold Christie's, London, 7 June 2011, lot 265. Little is known about the craftsmen and women to whom the engine-turning can be attributed, but Pierre-Charles Mané, Girod, and M. Blanchet, are names which have been connected to this technique on boxes produced in France (supra).
The present box is very much in the French taste and unlike other examples by Francis Harrache. The engine-turning visible in this object is particularly unusual for having been produced in England during the 1750s, and yet it is so contemporary in its design.
For other boxes by this goldsmith see lots 135 and 137.