A very similar box containing intaglios and ring seals with an almost identical tooled leather spine by James Tassie, sold Sotheby's London, 10 July 1998, lot 2.
James Tassie began his career as a stone mason in Scotland before entering the art Academy in Glasgow to study sculpture and modelling. In 1763, having completed his studies at the Academy, Tassie travelled to Dublin where he was employed as assistant to Dr Henry Quinn, physician making casts of gems and imitating precious stones and cameos. Between them Quinn and Tassie invented a white vitreous paste, a form of lead potash glass, which they used to make cameos and medallions.
In 1766 James Tassie moved to London and began to supply casts to Josiah Wedgwood, including the first plaster cast of the Portland Vase, and later acquired a showroom next door to Wedgwood's. Tassie's work became increasingly popular and attracted large commissions from such leading patrons as Catherine the Great who ordered a complete collection over 10,000 individual objects. After his death in 1799 James's nephew William Vernon carried on the business until 1840. William died in 1860 and part of his uncle's collection was sold in February 1881. Unfortunately there was a severe snowstorm that day and hardly anyone attended the sale, which resulted in the London trade purchasing the entire collection for £80. The remaining portion of the Tassie collection was sold Christie's, 20 April 1882 (cf. John M. Gray, James and William Tassie, 1894; John P. Smith, James Tassie, 1995; and James Holloway, James and William Tassie).
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