The design for this magnificent gold and mother-of-pearl inlaid ewer is closely related to a drawing by Nicolas Ambroise Cousinet for a silver ewer (illustrated in Versailles à Stockholm, exh. cat., Paris, Institut Culturel Suédois, September-October 1985, p.185). Cousinet became a master silversmith in Paris in 1696, and in 1703 he moved to Versailles, having been employed the previous year by Daniel Crönstrom, the Swedish envoy to the French court, to make drawings of the French royal silver to be sent to Stockholm.
The technique of inlaying tortoiseshell with mother-of-pearl, gold and silver probably originated in Naples towards the end of the 16th Century. Judging by the number of contemporary references to the Neapolitan piqué work and the surviving pieces which bear the signatures of Neapolitan craftsmen, Naples would seem to have been the centre of production, certainly for those pieces made in the 18th Century. Many references to piqué work can also be found in advertisements and sale catalogues of the 17th and 18th Centuries. In his catalogue The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor: Furniture, Clocks and Gilt Bronzes, London, 1974, II, p. 838, Sir Geoffrey de Bellaigue refers to the collection of 'picay' work formed by Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III, which included an inkstand and two snuffboxes, all later sold at Christie's London, 18 May 1819, lot 30; 25 May 1819, lot 67 and 26 May 1819, lot 17.
Sir Robert Adam is recorded as having bought three 'very handsome snuff-boxes of yellow and black tortoise-shell studded with gold' on a visit to Naples in 1755 (see J. Fleming, Robert Adam and his Circle, London, 1962, p. 157) and in a letter dated 1771 Lady Anne Miller refers to a comb bought while in Naples (Lady Anne Miller, Letters from Italy, London, 1776, III, p. 243-244, see de Bellaigue, op. cit. p. 838):
'... this city (Naples) is famous for a manufacture in tortoiseshell, which they inlay curiously with gold, and are very ingenious at representing any object you choose. I have had a comb made for my chignon incrusted with gold, to imitate an Etruscan border, copied from an antique vase, which is so well done, that we have bespoke several other articles..'.