Lot 101
  • 101


2,000 - 3,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • the box, 2.7cm., 1 1/8in. high
the sides of the cylindrical box die-stamped in imitation of engraving in the manner of Simon van de Passe with four panels of military trophies, the base similarly decorated with a figure of Father Time with a scythe and two winged hourglasses in a landscape, the detachable cover with a cast and pierced portrait of Charles I, the circular counters similarly decorated with portraits of monarchs and their coats-of-arms


Bonhams, London, 19 July 2002, lot 241

Catalogue Note

Sold with this lot is a typed slip: ‘Engraved [sic] Silver Counter-box, with portrait of Charles I on lid and engraved figu [sic] figure of Father Time on base, complete with set of thirty-eight counters with half-length portraits of Kings and Queens, 20 guineas.’ Annotated in ink: ‘Purchased Butler, Clifton Novr. 1937 with JP.TF’s Legacy’. In his book, Silver Boxes (London, 1968, pp. 16-18), Eric Delieb devotes several paragraphs to 17th century counter boxes, observing that they usually contain between 20 and 37 counters. He quotes the work of the scholar, Helen Farquhar (1859-1953) whose researches convinced her that ‘the superlatively engraved counters found within Charles I ‘’counter-boxes’’ were not, in fact, hand-engraved, as had been quite legitimately believed hitherto, but the work of the clever Dutch medallist Simon van de Passe [1612/15-1647], who had invented a method whereby a steel die was cut and wafer-thin discs of silver were struck with the motifs, thereby imitating engraving by hand.’ But it is now believed that the method of reproduction was very fine casting rather than die-stamping. For further comment, see Mark Jones, ‘The technique of Simon van de Passe Reconsidered,’ The Numismatic Chronicle, London, vol. 143, 1983, pp. 227-230.

Like old spoons, English silver counter boxes of the 17th century have long been of interest to antiquaries and collectors. In the absence of hallmarks, however, their precise dates of manufacture have never been firmly established. Authorities of the 19th century claim them to have been made as early as 1630, as were two examples decorated with the head of Charles I by J.C. Robinson of the South Kensington Museum in 1865 in his Catalogue of the Works of Art forming the Collection of Robert Napier (p. 97, nos. 1166 and 1167). Other, later specialists suggest that such boxes were made in the late 1650s in anticipation of or following the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. In support of this theory they point to the number of portraits of kings and queens on the counters, powerful reminders of the royalist message; and cite portraits dated 1657 and 1658 of the murdered Charles I recorded on three English delftware chargers. See John C. Austin, British Delft at Williamsburg, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Virginia, 1994, p. 134, no. 170.