Diamond-Set, Guilloché Enamel and Two-Color Gold Russian Imperial Presentation Snuff Box
Mark of Carl Martin Weishaupt und Söhne, Hanau, circa 1860, numbered 2836, further scratched 20345
Cartouche-shaped, with fluted baluster sides, the cover repoussé and chased with foliate scrolls and rosettes on a matted ground, centering an oval plaque enameled in translucent royal blue over a sunburst engine-turned ground, set with a silver-mounted diamond-set cypher of Empress Maria Alexandrovna beneath a Russian Imperial crown, within a gold border set with eighteen diamond-set flowerheads, the base centering a reserve engraved with a floral bouquet surrounded by scrolling foliage, in the original case, marked on flange and inside, also with St. Petersburg import mark. Height 1 1/2 inches (3.8 cm), width 3 1/2 inches (8.9 cm), depth 2 5/8 inches (6.7 cm).
Acquired by the father of the present owner.
Russian sovereigns followed the practice of their European counterparts of awarding jeweled snuff boxes (tabakerka in Russian, from the French tabatière). The practice began to flourish in the eighteenth century, during the reigns of the Empresses Elizabeth (1741-1762) and Catherine II (1762-1796), when snuff taking, which evolved into an elaborate social ritual, spurred demand for luxurious snuff boxes. In Russia, the practice of awarding snuff boxes endured into the reign of Nicholas II (1896-1917), long after the fashion for snuff taking had passed.
During the reign of Alexander II (1855-1881), many of the snuff boxes awarded by the sovereigns were supplied by the German goldsmith, C.M. Weishaupt und Söhne. Established in 1801, the firm participated in major international exhibitions and supplied the finest gold boxes to many of the courts of Europe. Other examples by the firm, bearing the jeweled cypher or portrait of Emperor Alexander II, were sold at Christie's, London, May 25, 2004, lot 215 and Christie's, London, June 10, 2010, lot 244. Snuff boxes bearing the cypher of the empress are rarer than those with the cypher of the emperor and seldom appear on the market.
Empress Maria Alexandrovna (1824-1880) was born Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine to Louis II, Grand Duke of Hesse (1777-1848) and Princess Wilhelmine of Baden (1788-1836). She was married to the future Emperor Alexander II in 1841 until her death in 1880. She gave birth to eight children, including future Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894).
C Property of a New York Estate
Additional Notes & Condition Report
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