maker's mark I[A]LC, charge and discharge marks of Antoine Leschaudel, Paris, 1747
rectangular, the gold cagework mounts chased with meandering reeding, the everted thumbpiece centred on a shell, the dark tortoiseshell panels inlaid in multi-coloured gold and silver piqué coulé, on the lid with a cockerel strutting near a reed-fringed pool, the base with an exotic bird above palms, the sides with further flowers and birds, gold lining
The same maker's mark, suggested as that of A.J.L. Couturier, was found on the rare lacquer and gold-mounted tortoiseshell boîte à secrets, Paris, 1758, from the Rothschild and Rosebery Collection, Sotheby's, 11 February 1999, lot 183 and on a gold-mounted tortoiseshell piqué portrait box of 1769, Sotheby's, 6 March 2003, lot 26. It is evidently the mark of a garnisseur who worked closely with the marchands-merciers, vernisseurs and tablettiers. Why it appears to be unrecorded whereas the marks of other mounters such as J.F. Morand were registered, remains a mystery. There was a 20 year battle from 1729 to 1756 between the Paris Goldsmiths' Guild and these artisans over the rights to sell cagework boxes which might or might not contain illicit substances between the panels and lining.
The piqué panels on this box are of particular delicacy, reminiscent of the multi-coloured piqué coulé work on the celebrated rhinoceros box in the Wrightsman Collection, later mounted by Louis Roucel, Paris, 1768 and even closer to the group of scarlet lacquer boxes decorated with piqué birds, including that with a pelican in its piety, from the same collection, mounted by Jean Ducrollay, 1754, and that in the Louvre, mounted by Jean-Marie Tiron in 1761 (F.J.B. Watson, The Wrightsman Collection, vol. III, nos. 19 & 11; Serge Grandjean, Les tabatières du musée du Louvre, Paris, 1981, no. 193). Charles Truman has pointed out how little is known about the individuals responsible for the recognisably different types of piqué fashionable in Paris (Charles Truman, The Gilbert Collection of Gold Boxes, vol.I, Los Angeles, 1991, p.34). Only two names have been noted: a certain Devair or Devert and Compigné, tablettier du roi, perhaps the same person or family famed for impressed views of Paris.
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