Gold Boxes – Book Review





Sponsored by S.J. Phillips Ltd



I am going to try and do justice to this new delicious, catalogue on the collection of 99 gold boxes at The Wallace Collection.  Dating from between c1730-1830 they number some of the finest and most famous known examples.

 The author, Charles Truman, is a leading expert on gold boxes and his research has led to some interesting discoveries.  Most of the boxes previously thought to be of Swiss origin turn out to be of German craftsmanship, with exquisite specimens from Berlin, Hanau and Dresden among them.



Probably Johann Christian Neuber, Dresden, c. 1775
The miniatures probably after 1786 or later, but before 1863
Gold, carnelian, base metal (probably bronze or copper), gouache on card under glass

By kind permission of the trustees of the Wallace Collection

To many the French boxes may already be familiar and what a dazzling array there is with works by leading Parisian makers such as Pierre-François Drais, Jean-Marie Tiron, Jean Frémin, Louis Roucel and Jean Ducrollay.  Each is described in great detail, including the sources for the box’s decoration.

In his introduction, Truman, relates the history of snuff taking and the collecting of these boxes, whose actual purpose was almost an afterthought.  They were the ultimate 18th century fashion accessory, reflecting the “denier cri” in style, novelty and taste.  They even had value as “currency”.




Jean-Charles-Simphorien Dubos, Paris 1756–57
Gold and enamel

By kind permission of the trustees of the Wallace Collection

The combination of goldsmithing, lapidary, enamelling and painted miniatures make them a microcosm of 18th century taste and art.  One can totally understand why the family acquired them in the mid-19th century as related in an essay by Rebecca Wallis.  Seoyoung Kim’s scientific analysis of the boxes reveals new information on the standards of gold used and how it could vary even in the best-regulated centres of production.

Gold boxes were expensive in the 18th century as they are today.  However salvation is at hand for this exquisitely illustrated book is the very next best thing you will find to owning one!

PS.  The book is at a special price of £75 at the Wallace Collection!

2 comments on “Gold Boxes – Book Review

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