Johann-Christian Neuber (1736-1808) and his father-in-law, Heinrich Taddel are credited with the development of the technique Zellen mosaik lapidary, in which hardstone panels are suspended à jour within a fine geometric cagework of gold. This technique, which is similar to creating cloisonné enamel, is highlighted by the juxtaposition of opaque and translucent panels in the present box.
Born in Neuwunsdorf on 7 April 1736, Johann-Christian Neuber was apprenticed at the age of seventeen to Johann Friedrich Trechaon. On 13 July 1762 he became a master of the goldsmith's guild in Dresden, and in 1769 he succeeded his father-in-law Heinrich Tadell as director of the Green Vaults. By 1775 he had been appointed Hofjuwelier to the court of Friedrich Augustus III.
In an advertisement in the Journal der Moden of April 1786, Neuber praised his stock-in-trade which sold 'at the cheapest prices', and the present box must have been in the category of 'boxes for gentlemen and ladies, as stone-cabinets, mounted in gold and lined with gold, of all Saxon country-stones, such as carnelians, chalcedonies, amethysts, jaspers, agates and petrified wood, numbered, together with an inventory of names, and where they can be found; a box for gentlemen (Manndose) costs 150-300 Reichsthaler, a box for ladies (Damesdose) 90-150 Reichsthaler', W. Holzhausen, Johann Christian Neuber, ein sächsischer Meister des 18. Jahrhunderts, Dresden, 1935, p. 12.
Neuber sometimes provided an accompanying handwritten specification booklet with his boxes which would list the stones used in the construction of the box and the geographical areas from where the stones were collected or could be found. The engraved number above each panel would correspond to the number in the booklet. The stones used in the present example are identified below:
The cover; 1 Jasper, 2 Psaronius, 3 Banded agate, 4 Quartz agate, 5 Agate, 6 Agate, 7 Jaspilite, 8 Jasper, 9 Petrified wood
The sides; 10 Agate, 11 Petrified wood, 12 Agate, 13 Psaronius, 14 Banded agate, 15 Agate, 16 Jasper, 17 Agate, 18 Agate breccia,
19 Gand stone, 20 Amethyst, 21 Agate, 22 Jasper, 23 Jasper, 24 Agate, 25 Jasper, 26 Agate, 27 Agate, 28 Jasper, 29 Jasper,
30 Agate, 31 Jasper, 32 Agate, 33 Petrified wood, 34 Amethyst, 35 Banded agate, 36 Petrified wood, 37 Petrified wood,
38 Jasper, 39 Agate
The base; 40 Jasper, 41 Quartz, 42 Jasper, 43 Petrified wood, 44 Jasper, 45 Moss agate, 46 Agate, 47 Hornstone, 48 Jasper