Early Snuffboxes and Their Makers

Early Snuffbox    When one speaks of the predecessor to the modern Limoges box, one is generally referring to the 18th-century snuffbox. The original and authentic snuffboxes were simple shapes - squares, ovals, rectangles - decorated with elaborate painted designs. Any collector of modern Limoges boxes is usually familiar with a different kind of box, however, one that assumes the shape of a particular object or animal. These are known as "whimsical" boxes, as opposed to "décor" boxes.

    While many collectors are under the impression that the earliest boxes were décor boxes, a whimsical box in, say, the shape of a lion, or a sitting monk, was just as common as a simple square one decorated with patterns of flowers and ribbons. And while many people assume 18th-century snuffboxes were serious creations, devoid of a modern sense of fun and whimsy, the opposite is, in fact, true. Early boxes were often designed in the most unusual shapes: a noblewoman sitting on her chamberpot, a husband and wife lying in bed together, love letters, monkey heads, sphinxes, armadillos, dolphins, fishing boats, or a man and woman singing together.

    There were four main factories in France during the 18th century. These four factories produced the porcelain items for all of France. The "Big Four" consisted of the Saint-Cloud factory, the Chantilly factory, the Mennecy factory, and the Vincennes/Sévres factory. Each establishment had it's own backstamps that marked the pieces they produced. It was not unusual for one factory to make their own version of an item that one of the other factories produced.