Monday, 21 November 2016

Georgian Menagerie: Enamel Owl (& Unfortunate Frog)**

A fine Birmingham or South Staffordshire enamel bonbonnière, circa 1760
Snuff-box or bonbonnière, c. 1760. Sold at Bonhams.

Yesterday I posted the enamel frog boxes, but today I'm afraid it's bad news for the unfortunate frog. He's owl supper!

Many of these small boxes shaped as animals were made between about 1760 and 1780, and depict all kinds of animals, both exotic, and more familiar ones like these. This one was produced either in Birmingham or Bilston using copper to form the box, which was then enamelled and mounted with a decorative rim. They were either used as snuff-boxes or bonbonnières (sweet boxes). The lid [below] contains an image of an owl being scolded by three birds.

The design on the lid has been transfer printed and over-painted, and other boxes [below] have a similar transfer printed design, which is sometimes called 'Mobbing Birds'.

Snuff-box from private collection, c. 1758-60.
Transfer printed in black, and probably Birmingham made.

The imagery is possibly taken from the Aesop's Fable The Owl and the Birds; a woodcut by Virgil Solis (1514-1562) based on the story is below:

Woodcut for The Owl and the Birds by Virgil Solis.

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