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Work Casket for Louis XVIII's snuffbox

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: neoclassicism

Casket for Louis XVIII's snuffbox

Decorative Arts
18th century: neoclassicism

Author(s):
Barbier Muriel

Louis XVIII's snuffbox casket is the finest work made by the Manufacture de Sèvres during the Restoration. The casket designed for the king's snuffbox also contained painted miniatures to be fitted successively into the lid of the snuffbox. The work required the contribution of several artists under the supervision of Alexandre Brongniart (1770-1847), then head of the Manufacture de Sèvres.

The making of the piece

The origin of the piece is somewhat uncertain; it is difficult to know whether it was a royal commission or a personal initiative by Alexandre Brongniart. The casket was designed to contain Louis XVIII's snuffbox, fitted into the lid, and miniatures painted on porcelain in sets of eight on three sliding shelves. Five persons were involved in making it: Jean-Charles-François Leloy, ornamentist, who designed the overall form; Louis-Honoré Boquet, assembler and bronze engraver, who assembled the casket; Évariste Fragonard, who painted the general composition that was then transferred to porcelain by Antoine Béranger, a painter specialised in the imitation of cameos on porcelain; and Marie-Victoire Jaquotot, a porcelain painter who made the miniatures.

The casket and its iconographic theme

The rectangular casket stands on four small winged lion's feet topped by lion's heads. One of the long sides opens to reveal the three sliding shelves. The sides and lid have a wine-colored ground. The gilded ornaments are friezes of foliage, stars, and double "Ls" in laurel wreaths, Louis XVIII's monogram. The lid and three of the sides also bear paintings imitating classical cameos. The iconographic theme is not related to the function of the item but illustrates an old theory of Brongniart that painting on porcelain is permanent, unlike that applied to any other support. The composition on the lid thus shows a personification of Painting applying his art to porcelain and receiving painting material from Cybele, metals to produce colors from Pluto, and a painted, fired plaque and vase from Vulcan. Medallions of the heads of Cybele, Pluto, and Vulcan are painted in cameo style on three of the sides.

The miniatures

The casket was designed as a case for the miniatures. They were painted by Marie-Victoire Jaquotot, who shared Brongniart's ideas about the permanence of painting on porcelain. There are a total of forty-eight miniatures but the casket holds only twenty-four. Twenty-three are dated between 1818 and 1823; the others were ordered during the reign of Charles X between 1827 and 1836 to be displayed at the Charles X museum. Now in the Prints and Drawings Department of the Louvre, they are reproductions of famous portraits of kings and queens, such as Henri IV after Pourbus, Marie-Antoinette after Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, and Marie Leczinska after Jean-Marc Nattier. These miniatures, partly designed to be spare copies in case the real works disappeared, were much admired during the Restoration.

Bibliography

Un Âge d'or des arts décoratifs : 1814-1848, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1991, pp. 175-176.

Technical description

  • Manufacture de SÈVRESJean-Charles-François LELOYMarie-Victoire JAQUOTOTLouis-Honoré BOQUETÉvariste FRAGONARD Antoine BERANGER

    Casket for Louis XVIII's snuffbox

    1817-18 (miniatures), 1819-20 (casket)

    Sèvres, France

  • Hard-paste porcelain, gilded silver, wood, velvet.

    H. 23 cm.; L. 8 cm.; W. 28 cm.Miniatures: H. 6.9 cm.; L. 5.6 cm.

  • Deposited in the Musée des Souverains on its founding in 1852

    MS 214

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Louis XVIII
    Room 76

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