Fabrique Royale [Berlin], c.1770-75
Bloodstone, vari-coloured gold, foiled diamonds
5.1 x 10.7 x 8.5 cm
The ingenuity of the pictorial setting of the diamonds on this bloodstone snuff box contributes to its spectacularly lavish design. It is encrusted with almost three thousand diamonds, backed with delicately coloured foils in shades of pink and yellow on each of its six sides.
The stones are rose and brilliant-cut and set in a combination of silver and gold rub-over settings in designs of flowers, foliage, musical trophies, insects and ribbons. The chased mounts, in vari-coloured gold, add to the flamboyance of the box.
This box is one of the finest of a series made in the Fabrique Royale in Berlin, many of the same distinctive shape, for Frederick II of Prussia (1712–86), known as Frederick the Great, and for his court.
Frederick was a moderniser and a great patron of the arts. Musicians, philosophers and artists flocked to the Prussian Court. The identity of the maker of this box is difficult to determine due to the absence of hallmarks.
This box is thought to have been inherited by Frederick William III of Prussia and given to his daughter, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, consort of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, from whom it passed into the possession of the Russian Imperial Family. It was listed in the 1922 inventory of personal belongings of the imperial family confiscated by the Soviet authorities in 1917. It subsequently came to England and was sold twice through Christie’s before being purchased by Queen Mary in 1932.