Porcelain snuffbox with three compartments
Gold, porcelain and enamel
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.492-2008
This snuffbox is unique as it is designed to hold three different types of snuff. It was made in Meissen, Germany, from hard paste porcelain and is painted in enamels. The gold mounts appear to be original and were probably made by a Dresden goldsmith.
Drawing on romantic themes there are many illustrations from Greek or Roman mythology on the sides of the box. The cover is divided in half and decorated with Mars and Minerva in wooded landscapes within a Rococo styled oval-shape of pink and yellow on a blue background. The base, interior and walls of the box are painted in a similar style, with illustrations of Leda and the swan, Venus and Cupid, Diana the Huntress, and Venus borne along by dolphins.
The interior of the lid is painted with the portraits of Carl Theodore, the Elector Palatine, in armour, wearing the sash of the Order of St Hubert, and his wife Elisabeth Auguste. These are attributed to Johann Heinrici, who was employed at the Meissen factory at this time.
Snuffboxes designed to take two or, as in this case, three different types of snuff were produced mainly as novelty items and were more common in Germany and Britain than in the rest of Europe. This box, together with an almost identical box in the Wallace Collection, might well have been intended as gifts from the Elector and his wife, or possibly, given the amorous nature of the painted subjects, as gifts to each other.