A snuffbox from the Empress Josephine
Given to the Comte de Barral by the Empress, this snuffbox promises to be the most sought-after in a collection of gold boxes.
Gold snuffbox with blue enamel, hallmark of Gabriel Raoul Morel (1764-1832), decorated with a miniature of the Empress Josephine by Paul Louis Quaglia (1780-1833).
A brilliant victory deserves a lavish present... This one, entirely in chased gold set off by two blue enamel fillets, sports a portrait of the Empress. It may have been a gift from Napoleon or bought by Josephine, an avid collector who spent a substantial amount on jewellery, despite having the use of the crown jewels. Her collection included diamond and cameo tiaras, emerald and amethyst sets and earrings in pearls or sapphires, which she bought from Mellerio and Nitot, the Emperor's official supplier (now known as Chaumet). The artist behind this miniature was Paul Louis Quaglia (1780-1853), who was born in Piacenza, Italy, and moved to Paris in 1805. This snuffbox in gold chased with foliage bears the hallmark (his initials and an ear in a lozenge) of Gabriel-Raoul Morel (1764-1832), who specialised in producing gold boxes for leading jewellers. In the early 19th century, Napoleon I's coronation relaunched a taste for snuffboxes, and the official gift department revived the customs of the former court, which involved making presents of these objects decorated with the sovereigns' portraits. A little later, these exquisite boxes were used as gifts for members of the imperial family, as rewards for princes and marshals, or to commemorate a major event. They were presented in gilded leather cases, like the one here. Josephine gave this snuffbox to one of her cousins, Amédée François Joseph Hippolyte, Count of Barral (1787-1856), to celebrate the victory at Austerlitz. A masterpiece of military strategy, this battle took place on 2 December 1805: the first anniversary of Napoleon I's coronation.