- tortoiseshell, agate, gold
Prince Victor Napoléon (1862-1926);
Prince Louis Napoléon (1914-1997)
Mémoires de Constant, premier valet de l’Empereur, Paris, 1830, vol. 2, p. 88;
Sophie Mouquin, 'Agate, Jasper and Sardonyx: Gemstones in French Mineralogical Collections of the Eighteenth Century', in Alexis Kugel, Gold Jasper and Carnelian, Johann Christian Neuber at the Saxon Court, London, 2012, pp. 44-89
Interesting mineral specimens had long been included in cabinets of curiosities such as that of the Abbé de Fleury (sold in 1756) and Dezallier d’Argenville (dispersed in 1766). When categorising their collections, some preferred to index them by place of origin and others to typify their patterns and physical characteristics, particularly with regard to the dendritic agates. This serious scientific research had a more frivolous side and gave rise to stones being chosen for the pictures which could be seen in them then setting them in snuff boxes for display. A gold box set with a ‘very precious’ oriental agate was included in the sale of the’ comte de ***’ in March 1786 – in the middle [of the stone] is shown a young stag running, its hind legs resting on a small section of terrace and having before it a kind of hillock’. It is typical of the work of Vachette, that he should have seen the potential in the pictorial stone on this box and should choose to mount it in the taste of the Emperor.
Adrien-Jean-Maximilien Vachette, a prolific and imaginative gold box maker, combined the excellence of quality and inventive creativity of a Carl Fabergé while always remaining within his strictly defined area of boxes. Baptised at Cauffry in the Oise on 20 January 1753, he was the fifteenth and last child of Pierre Vachette, a tax collector, and his wife Marie-Anne Pillon. After 8 years of apprentissage, he became master under the auspices of the gold box maker Pierre-François Drais whose influence can be seen, particularly in the pre-revolutionary period, in Vachette’s clean lines emphasised often by pilasters. Vachette remained for some years in the vicinity of Drais’s former workshops, taken over by Ouizille, in the place Dauphine. In 1798, he was recorded at 3/45 quai de l’Horloge and then 3/45 quai du Nord (the revolutionary name for the quai de l’Horloge) in 1806. He continued to produce a large number of boxes, many in association with Charles Ouizille, Nitot and Montauban. He died in 1839, leaving a widow, Anne Cécile Fronteau, and daughter.