Armorial Tobacco Box

Material: Silvered brass
Dimensions: Length: 17.1cm / 6 ¾in, Width: 6.2cm / 2 ⅜in, Depth: 3.9cm / 1 ½in
Place of Origin: Northern Europe, possibly England
Date: 2nd half 18th century
Maker or Retailer: Unknown
Present Location: Private collection


Although its oblong shape suggests Dutch or German origin, this unusual silvered brass tobacco box has characteristics which might point to a different place of manufacture. The box is larger than the standard Low Countries tobacco box and made from heavy gauge sheet metal.


Unlike most Dutch and German boxes, it bears rudimentary pseudo-hallmarks, which suggests that it was always intended to be silvered.


In addition to the foliate engraving on its sides, lid and base, the lid of the box and its base are each engraved with three armorials. None of these has so far been identified, with the exception of the left-hand and central ones on the base, which are somewhat crude approximations of, respectively, the French and British Royal arms.


This raises a possibility of manufacture in either country, although the style of the unidentified central armorial on the box’s lid, with multiple helmets, is typically Continental. It may be that all the armorials are to some extent fanciful and intended primarily as decoration, or that the box was manufactured in Holland or Germany with an eye to export markets.


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