Augsburg, 20 x 31 mm, circa 1675
A fine bonbonnière of museum quality "Minerva and the skills of state affairs"
Case: gold and opaque polychrome enamel, round. Loose lid with a painting showing a sitting Minerva wearing a plumed hat and holding her spear; to her right is her shield with the head of Medusa, with her owl sitting on the shield. To her left is a table with symbols of art: a small statue and a violine. On the table stands also a globe as a symbol of the continents and a measure as a symbol and attribute of the builder. Inside the lid the monogram of an interlaced double "L", presumably for Louis XIV, King of France, on light blue ground surrounded by a laurel wreath. Pilaster strips decorated with acanthus divide the sides, which show: Prudentia (wisdom) with serpent and mirror, Hercules (strength, courage and resourcefulness) with a lion hide and a club, Elocution with her arm lifted high, and the personification of purity : a lady in a white dress with a white lily, next to her a pumpkin as a symbol of fertility, a pair of doves and a fountain as a symbol of life.
In old Rome Minerva was the guardian of craftsmen and trade. As times passed she became synonymous with the Greek goddess Athena and as such became the goddess of poets and teachers as well. Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, warfare, the arts and shipbuilding; she was also guardian of knowledge. The tokens of the Greek cult of Athena were attributed to Minerva at a later date. Since the times of Augustus, Minerva was worshipped as the goddess who brought victory and took care of state affairs.
The personifications in the visible areas of the piece stand for the most important virtues and qualities of a ruling monarch in the 17th century: most importantly wisdom, - a deep comprehension of the relations in nature, life and society as well as the skills to identify the best course of action when faced with problems or challenges. Next to it are the strength and the power of the king, intending to set an example of virtuousness and warrior tradition; and then there is the power of persuasion, the ability to compel others to do one’s bidding and nevertheless remain virtuous. Above them all, however, and binding them all together is the sovereignty over arts and culture.