Attributed to the workshop of James Cox, London, 110 x 57 x 49 mm, circa 1770
An emerald-studded agate necessaire of museum quality with exquisite enamel portraits in an excellent overall condition
Case: 18k gold, gilt brass, orange-red agate, polychrome enamel, emeralds.
The rectangular casket stands on four rocaille feet. The truncated pyramidal top is decorated with five applied knob finials and the orange and red agate panels mounted in a gilt bronze cagework are chased with floral garlands, volutes and rocailles; the side panels are ornamented with a hound and a deer, while the back shows a shepherdess scene; the top panels are decorated with birds. The front shows three oval enamel portraits of young ladies, each framed by a border of emeralds; emerald-set thumbpiece. The interior with containers holds two scent-bottles with gilt stoppers, a pair of tweezers, a pencil, a little spoon, a folding mirror with enamel decor, a toothpick and two ivory dance cards.
James Cox (circa 1723-1800) was born in London around 1723; his father was a tailor. He was freed from the Clockmaker's Company in 1745 and was at the time registered as a goldsmith. He also called himself a "jeweller". In June 1745 he opened his shop in Racquet Court and married Elizabeth Liron in December of the same year. He stayed at Racquet Court until 1756, when he went into partnership with Edward Grace and moved to larger premises in Shoe Lane. Cox & Grace went bancrupt in November 1758 but Cox still continued advertising his work. He kept the rooms in Shoe Lane and worked there. The bancruptcy proceedings ended in July 1763 and in the 1760s and early 1770s Cox gained a reputation for elaborate and luxurious musical automata and gemstone-studded watches made from precious metals. These treasures were mostly intended for the Ottoman, Indian and Chinese markets, often even for the Chinese imperial court.
Cox became especially famous for his museum at Spring Garden in London, which he kept open from 1772 until 1775. He exhibited the most exquisite objects of art created by a number of contemporary craftsmen and artists. However, Cox soon faced financial difficulties again. He had invested great sums of money in his stock, meaning that while his storerooms were full, he had no actual money. Cox was forced to sell some of the precious objects; Christie’s held two auctions for him in July and December 1772. He also opened a museum for mechanical art in the Great Room at Spring Gardens in the same year, which - charging the extraordinarily high entry fee of half a guines - soon became the talk of the town. The museum existed for three years.
Case: very good, slightly damaged