Friday, 2 December 2016

Birmingham Enamel Box Nᵒ.1

Lid of enamel box, transfer printed in red and over-painted
in orange and purple. Birmingham, c. 1750-1755.
Held at Wolverhampton Museum and Art Gallery.

The base is gilt copper, which has been
elaborately ornamented.

This enamel  bonbonniere (for sweets) has been transfer printed; the original engraving thought to be by Robert Hancock from a print by Laurent Cars [below], itself copied from a painting by Watteau [also below] called Les Fetes Venetiennes. The scene has been altered slightly, and the couple on the box dance by a river. The base is designed to imitate a basket, complete with handles. It is probably an early example of Birmingham's transfer printing - it has been slightly over-painted, suggesting that it was produced before the technique was mastered. It is though that Robert Hancock was apprenticed in Birmingham, and there are several years after the typical end of the apprenticeship and him being placed producing transfer prints for the Battersea enamel factory in London.

Les Fetes Venetiennes by
Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721).
Painted c. 1718-1719.

Print of Les Fetes Venetiennes, by 
Laurent Cars (1699-1771).
Date of production unknown.

Height: 3cm, Diameter: 5.9cm  EM131

A box with the same imagery was sold at Christie's in 1996 (no picture available) and was described:
'A Birmingham enamel snuff-box 1751-56 Oblong, printed and painted on the cover with Les Fêtes Venitiennes, after Hancock from an engraving by Laurent Cars after Watteau, the slightly waisted sides with figure groups on islands including Infancy, the interior cover printed and painted in sepia with Infancy and Youth after Hancock after Boitard, the base with Autumn after Watteau, with engraved basketweave mounts and shaped thumbpiece 3 3/8in. (8.5cm.) wide'.

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