The motto on the lid of this present box, ‘PRESSEZ MOY ET IE MOVVIRAY,’ which more accurately should have been ‘Pressez moi et je m’ouvrirai,’ may be translated as, ‘Squeeze me and I will open.’ Clearly this refers to the simple mechanism which controls the opening of the lid as well as to the apparent promise vouchsafed in the engraving of the amorous couple. Similarly, the engraving of the scene and motto on the interior of the lid seems to have a double if not a triple meaning: ‘PICQVE DENIS VOILA LE VILLAGE.’ The fact that Cupid is here depicted with a bow but no arrow directs attention to the voluptuous subject of his attentions; the ‘PIQVE DENIS’ (‘Pique déni) of the inscription seems to suggest arousal denied. (One of Mr. Delieb’s examples, ‘Arceo sed ardeo’ (‘I shun, but I burn’) echoes this sentiment.) Meanwhile, in the distance flames (of desire) are about to engulf ‘LE VILLAGE,’ perhaps an allegory for ‘Love all-consuming.’ The obscurity of this motto, however, renders it open to a number of interpretations. As for the recumbent figure, the engraver appears to have been inspired by one or more of Titian's studies of nudes.
For the Paul Wallraf Collection of 18th and 19th century silver-mounted tortoise shell boxes, see Sotheby’s, London, 8 December 1983, lots 34 to 43.
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