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Made by: Unknown

On view in: Icon Room

About this object

This box has a silver cover that is formed in two parts, hinged in the center, and decorated with niello. The lid is designed to fit the shape of the polished green turban snail shell that forms the snuffbox’s bottom. This particular shell originated in China, where it was most likely used as a ceremonial wine cup. The engraved image of a sinking ship that appears on the cover was based on a section of a print entitled Naufrage (Shipwreck) by Jacques de Lajoue, originally published in Paris in 1736. With its print source from France and its shell from China, no piece better illustrates the unusual role Russia played at the center of east-west trade.

Shell is cut so that the mother of pearl shows partly and so that three pieces are left to form short legs to provide stability for this table snuff box. Interior has two compartments, one larger than the other, formed naturally by the shell. Silver gilt cover is in two parts, hinged in the center and decorated with niello. Smaller part of cover is decorated with shells, sea trophies and leaves. Larger part of cover has a scene of a sinking ship, a triton riding a hippocamp and a sea nymph. Sky is gilt and stippled.

Object name:
Made from:
Silver gilt -- niello -- turban snail shell
Made in:
Veliky Ustyug, Russia
Date made:
5.7 × 7.3 × 11.4 cm (2 1/4 × 2 7/8 × 4 1/2 in.)

Detailed information for this item

Catalog number:
Signature marks:
MONOGRAM inside cover
Credit line:
Bequest of Marjorie Merriweather Post, 1973
Featured in publication:
"A Taste for Splendor: Russian Imperial and European Treasures from the Hillwood Museum","Russian Art at Hillwood","The Art of the Russian North"