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An unprecedented George Washington snuff box, 1800

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Directory: Antiques: Decorative Art: Metals: Silver: Pre 1837 VR: item # 1177264

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Chicora Antiques, Inc.
518 Autumn Circle
Columbia, South Carolina

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An unprecedented George Washington snuff box, 1800
An unprecedented Continental burl walnut snuff box, of circular form, with a raised coin silver medallion of George Washington in relief on the lid, the rims of the lid embellished with a strip of inlay, presumed to be ebony, circa 1795-1810. A number of similar snuff boxes are known, most featuring less costly stamped brass relief portraits of various Revolutionary War figures including Lafayette, Jefferson, Washington, and Franklin. This is the only known example extant with the relief bust accomplished in silver. The maker is unknown, but the box was quite obviously made for export or consumption by an elitist group of fashionable society. The fact that it is Continental in origin shows the far-felt influence of the recently deceased George Washington. There are three examples of snuff boxes that feature an image of George Washington in the permanent collection of "Winterthur". All are shown in Donald Fennimore's book "Metalwork in Early America", a “Winterthur” publication, published 1996, plates #212, and #215, figures A and B. The first is a tortoiseshell and composite box, the inset made by Eugene Morel of Paris, a French sculptor. It has a gilt-copper relief of Washington. As Morel was a sculptor, this examples shows Washington in a Classical format, undressed, and shown from the shoulders upwards, similar to Houdon's famous bust of him. The other two are Birmingham examples made by an anonymous artists. They were both apparently designed from a profile by Thomas Holloway of London which appeared in "The Literary Magazine" in 1792. Holloway's profile may have inspired Josiah Wedgewood's profile medallion examples of Washington in full uniform. Of these latter two examples, one is brass, the other is fused-plate, both expected materials of Birmingham factory works. None of the three associated examples have solid silver reliefs of one of the most celebrated figures of the eighteenth century. Some minor wood loss, slight warping due to age. There is an unknown museum acquisition number, painted in red, on the interior.

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