Attributed to Charles-Jacques de Mailly, Paris, 87 x 57 x 41 mm, circa 1765
An important gold enamel snuff box lavishly studded with diamonds "L'Amour sacrifiant à l'Amitié"; the grisaille work is attributed to Charles-Jacques de Mailly (1740-1817)
Case: 22K gold, illegible master’s mark, charge mark Jean-Jaques Prévost (1762-1768), Parisian guarantee mark for 22K gold 1762-1768, later gold mark Paris 1838-1846.
Rectangular box with bevelled corners, all-over painted with polychrome bouquets of summer flowers on dark green ground. Central oval cartouches with very fine miniature "en grisaille" paintings inspired by the works of François Bouchers (1703-1770). The lid shows "L'Amour sacrifiant à l'Amitié", a scene from "Suite d'estampes" with engravings of Madame de Pompadour, after a stone relief by Jacques Guays. Several putti decorate the sides - seen playing musical instruments and forging love arrows; flanges with putti allegories of the four seasons, base with a scene at the altar of love. Constructional two-colour gold framework with garlands, volutes and rocailles, fluted pilasters on the bevelled corners. Wavy gold bands studded with exquisite diamonds on the lid.
A box by Louis-Phillipe Demay dated "Paris, 1766/1767" is in the Louvre and has very similar enamelling; it is signed "D. Mailly f. " and illustrated in A. K. Snowman as illustration no. 413.
Charles-Jacques de Mailly (1740-1817)
The enamel decoration on the box is attributed to Charles-Jacques de Mailly; de Mailly exhibited his work in Paris in 1771, but is known to have created a portrait of the Russian pretender Emel'yan Ivanovich Pugachev (who claimed to be the deposed czar Peter III) in 1775. It seems that de Mailly - just like many other goldsmiths and enamellers from France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and England - had been attracted to the opulent wealth of the court at Saint Petersburg. He returned to Paris eventually, however, and exhibited at the Salon of 1793. There is only a very small number of boxes with work that can be attributed to de Mailly; he achieved fame for his paintings of fruit and flowers and even more so for his grisaille work - his allegorical scenes surrounded with colourful flower garlands of roses and peonies are exquisite. In the Dictionnaire des miniaturistes sur mail (Paris 1924), Henri Clouzot mentions on page 134 a gold bonbonnière with a basket of flowers on a table, painted on the lid by de Mailly and sold at the Debruge-Duménil sale in 1850.
Case: very good, hairlines