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Author Topic:   Nude Box
Russell

Posts: 52
Registered: Oct 2003

iconnumber posted 01-29-2006 07:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Russell     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

I have an oval, French, silver box (snuff?), approximately 2 1/8" long x 1 7/8th" wide x 1 15/16th" high. One mark seems to be a woman's head facing right, in a square cartouche with cut corners; the other mark is one of those minuscule diamonds with a capital letter I or a column separating two sets of initials.

The lid of the box is either a cabochon rock crystal or glass, about 1/4" thick. The back side of the crystal/glass (flat side) is intaglio carved and covered by a slab of mother of pearl. The scene is of a nude woman sitting on the ground amid grass and flowers. Three angels, on clouds, are hovering around her; one, holds a mirror; another, a necklace; and the third, is plucking a flower. I have examined the carving very closely in the hope of finding the carver's signature or initials, but the work is unsigned. I have not removed the carving from its setting, so there may be something on the side, beyond my view. The sides of the box are embellished with engraving but the surface of the silver is most unusual - at least to me - in that it is grainy and gives the surface a matte look, rather than a highly polished one. I have been tempted to polish it "thoroughly" but so far, I have resisted that temptation because I think the matte surface may have been intentional. The photo of the diamond mark, shows the pitted surface that produces the matte look. I might be inclined to think that the box was dipped in an acid bath of some kind, to produce this effect. Is anyone familiar with this technique?

If I had to venture a guess, the black spots might be mold (?) growing on the surface of the mother of pearl.

Any information you could provide, would be greatly appreciated because I know nothing about it.

Thanks.
Russell


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Kayvee

Posts: 204
Registered: Oct 2004

iconnumber posted 01-30-2006 11:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kayvee     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hello Russell -
The marks on your item tell me that it is French. The Minerva head in the clipped corner rectangle means that it is first standard (.950) silver, made after 1838. Your picture of the maker's mark looks very fuzzy on my monitor. If you could read the initials in the maker's diamond-shaped lozenge, I could perhaps help you to determine the maker, thereby narrowing the date of manufacture. Are you able to post pictures of the whole object? Have you considered that the rock crystal mounted on the box dates to an earlier era? Your description of the scene makes it sound allegorical or mythological. A picture of the whole would help us answer your questions.

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Russell

Posts: 52
Registered: Oct 2003

iconnumber posted 01-30-2006 05:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Russell     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Kayvee,

Thanks for your response.

The diamond mark is very tiny. I wonder how the French made them! The letters look like a LU followed by an object that might be a column, vase or ? which is followed by another set of initials z(?)E.

The carving of the woman is sensitive and sensuous, the three putti are almost comical. It may very well be second quarter of the 19th century.

Thanks again.
Russell

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Kayvee

Posts: 204
Registered: Oct 2004

iconnumber posted 01-30-2006 10:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kayvee     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hello Russell –
Thanks for reloading all your pictures. I’d say from the style of the engraved flowers and foliage on the sides that your box dates from 1860-1880, and that the plaque on top is of the same vintage. The design of Venus, goddess of love and beauty, at her toilette with putti in attendance has the sentimental and picturesque qualities so characteristic of the Romantic era. The maker’s mark rings no bells for me. Have you tried looking at the letters with a loupe or very strong magnifying glass? The U and z don’t make sense. I’d be happy to continue researching if you get a better view of the letters. Unfortunately I don’t think you’ll ever find the maker of the plaque on top of the box. During the 19th C there were thousands (estimates of up to 10,000) artisans in Paris alone who made the decorative objects so popular with the rising bourgeoisie – all manner of boxes (jewelry, snuff, glove, watch, etc.), dance cards, fans, opera glasses, and so on. The jeweler/silversmith who made your box probably bought in the decorative plaque from one of these artisans. As for the matte finish and black spots, without handling the item I can only guess that these might come from mistreatment or improper care at some point rather than a deliberate acid-washed finish. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

Good luck.

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Russell

Posts: 52
Registered: Oct 2003

iconnumber posted 02-03-2006 08:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Russell     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Kayvee,

I tried re-photographing the diamond mark but the photos I took today are no better than the one I posted.Whatever pitted the surface of the silver, also pitted the mark.

Is there a book or web site that shows these tiny French marks?

Thanks.
Russell

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ozfred

Posts: 87
Registered: Sep 2002

iconnumber posted 02-03-2006 10:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ozfred     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is there a publication of the French silversmiths and their marks of the 19th century?

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Kayvee

Posts: 204
Registered: Oct 2004

iconnumber posted 02-04-2006 04:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kayvee     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In my opinion the most accessible and complete book on French 19th C. makers’ marks is “Dictionnaire des poinçons de fabricants d’ouvrages d’or et d’argent de Paris et de la Seine: 1838-1875,” by Catherine Arminjon and others, 1994, ISBN 2-11-081343-1. Sadly this book is out of print but is still available, probably for a hefty price. As the title states, the book covers only Paris and its region for makers first registered between 1838 and 1875. Close to 4,000 marks are reproduced in alphabetical order with a short blurb about the maker. There is a similar book that covers marks from France’s second largest city, Lyon. I know of no source that lists 19th C makers’ marks from French provinces. Another source is the French Ministry of Culture website that covers Parisian makers’ marks from the 19th and 20th C.
Répertoire des auteurs
This site is a bit hard to use, especially if you have no French, and is not complete. Russell, I’ve looked for makers starting with LU in the book on Parisian makers and on the website with no luck. Either your box was not made in Paris or the maker does not begin with LU. There have been a number of excellent suggestions in these Forums for ways to bring out partially obliterated or hard-to-read marks. You might want to try some of these techniques with the mark on your box, and definitely use at least 10X magnification to look at the mark because it is so tiny.

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