A magnificent Meissen gold-mounted Royal snuff box made for Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, circa 1755. Photo Bonhams
Superbly painted with views of Dresden and Warsaw and Saxon royal palaces, depicting: on the cover, Dresden seen from the right bank of the Elbe; on the front, Schloss Hubertusburg; on the right side, Schloss Pillnitz; on the left side, Groß-Sedlitz; on the back, Wermsdorf; on the base, Schloss Moritzburg, the inside cover with a view of Warsaw seen across the Vistula from Praga, the inside painted in purple monochrome with a diamond pattern enclosing AR monograms, the wavy gold mounts with an elaborate floral thumbpiece mounted with garnets and rubies and incised numeral '102', 8.2cm across; 4cm high. Estimate: £100,000 - 150,000, € 110,000 - 170,000, US$ 160,000 - 250,000. Sold for £860,000
Literature: Beaucamp-Markowsky 1985, no. 114;
Beaucamp-Markowsky 1988, no. 37;
Den Blaauwen 2000, p. 327;
Cassidy-Geiger (ed.) 2007, cat. no. 14
Exhibited: Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, 1976-2003;
London, Gilbert Collection, Somerset House, 2003-2008;
New York, The Bard Graduate Centre for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design and Culture, Fragile Diplomacy: Meissen Porcelain for European Courts, ca. 1710-63, 15 November 2007-10 February 2008, no. 14;
Barnard Castle, Co. Durham, The Bowes Museum, 2008-2010
The cover is painted with a depiction of Dresden seen from the right bank of the Elbe beneath the Augustus Bridge, after a 1748 engraving by Bernardo Bellotto (1721-80) of his painting of the same year, now in the Gemäldegalerie in Dresden.
A closely similar snuff box, differing only in the scene on the cover, and with similar jewel-encrusted mounts and the 'AR' cypher to the inside, is in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (Fritz Mannheimer Collection); see Den Blaauwen 2000, no. 233, where the author notes that both boxes woud certainly have been made for Augustus III.
Joseph Marryat noted in 1868 that a snuff box painted with views of Dresden, Warsaw, Pillnitz, Moritzburg and the Royal Palaces, with the AR monogram pattern on the inside, was in the celebrated Fountaine Collection at Narford Hall in Norfolk (A History of Pottery and Porcelain.. (1868), p. 333). A box of the same description was sold from the Edward Steinkopff Collection by Christie's London, 22-23 May 1935, lot 23 (not illustrated). In both cases, the description could refer to the present lot, or to the example in the Rijksmuseum.
Another similar topographical snuff box, but without the AR monograms on the inside of the box, is in the Kunstindustrimuseet, Copenhagen (Heine 1937, no. 74); another was in the collection of Count Thure Bond (Sotheby's London, 8 December 1970, lot 42) and subsequently in the collection of the British Rail Pension Fund (sold by Sotheby's Geneva, 15 May 1990, lot 8); another is in the the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Porzellansammlung (Pietsch / Banz 2010, no. 456).
An example with similar views and gold mounts with jewels, but with an underglaze-blue pattern of lilies and laurel wreaths to the inside, formerly in the Sir Alfred Chester Beatty Collection (sold by Sotheby's London, 3 december 1962, lot 119; and subsequently by Christie's Geneva, 11 May 1981, lot 210) is now in the Franz E. Burda Collection (Kunze-Koellensperger 1997, no. 115); this box may have been made for Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony, who married the Dauphin of France in 1749. A bequest to her son, Prince Xavier, includes 'une boete de porcelaine ou sont representees les vues de Dresde et autre vues'.
Bonhams. The Helmut Joseph Collection of Important Snuff Boxes, 5 Jul 2011. London, New Bond Street www.bonhams.com