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  You are in: Home > Art History >Going for Gold  

Going for Gold
Craftsmanship and Collecting of Gold Boxes

Edited by Tessa Murdoch and Heike Zech

Tessa Murdoch is Deputy Keeper of the Sculpture, Ceramics, Metalwork and Glass Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum London and recently curated the exhibition Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsars.

Heike Zech is curator of the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.


Going for Gold examines the art of the gold box in 18th and 19th century Europe. Distinguished international scholars explore the contributions made by individual workshops in major European centres of production in the context of contemporary patronage and the international market for such boxes. Consideration is given to the design of gold boxes with reference to the V&A’s important collection of design drawings. Leading experts explore the ways in which different techniques of gold box decoration – portrait miniatures, gems, enamels, mosaics and hard-stones – were developed.

Contributors to the volume include experts from Amsterdam, Berlin, Dresden, London, Munich, New York, Paris, Rome, and St Petersburg. Senior museum curators, auction house specialists and independent scholars illustrate and discuss examples from private and public collections in their cities and elsewhere. The result is a unique record of the state of knowledge on the European production of gold boxes and of the history of collecting.

Going for Gold will appeal to international collectors, scholars, dealers, museum curators and museum visitors, and all those interested in gold and silver fine art.

List of Illustrations


Chapter 1
Snuff-taking, Fashion and Accessories

Chapter 2
From the Boîte à Portrait to the Tabatière: The Production of Gold Boxes in Paris

Chapter 3
The Manufacture of Gold Boxes in Eighteenth-century Paris: The Ducrollay Workshop and its Successors Tiron de Nanteuil and Drais

Chapter 4
Designs for Gold Boxes in the Album of the Workshop of Jean Ducrollay and his Successors

Chapter 5
Swiss Gold Boxes: Myth or Reality?

Chapter 6
Gold Box Production in Hanau: The Extended Workbench of Frankfurt and its Trade Fair

Chapter 7
Beyond the Royal Court: Thoughts on the Gold Box Production in Berlin during the Reign of Frederick the Great

Chapter 8
Taddel, Stiehl and Neuber in Dresden: Three Makers of Gold Boxes during the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century

Chapter 9
Western European Refinement and Asiatic Luxury: Gold Boxes for the Imperial Court in Saint Petersburg

Chapter 10
Jean Pierre Ador and Russian Gold Boxes

Chapter 11
Jean Pierre Ador in London

Chapter 12
Retailing Gold Boxes in London and Bath

Chapter 13
Florentine Snuffboxes

Chapter 14
Count Brühl and his Collection of Porcelain Boxes

Chapter 15
Romanticism or Deceit: Some Counterfeit Eighteenth-century Parisian Gold Boxes in the

Chapter 16
Gold Boxes in the British Royal Collection

Chapter 17
The Rothschild as European Collectors of Gold Boxes

List of Contributors

“A wonderful compilation of knowledge.” Christiane Grégoire, Musée Cognacq Jay, Paris

“A tremendous success including groundbreaking research proving Hanau was one of the most important centres of the production of gold boxes in the eighteenth century. The symposium brought forward not just new research but also new or not widely known researchers.” Fabian Stein, London

“Gold boxes are a delectable and tangible microcosm of the art and society from which they come, and this is also true of the innovative scholarship devoted to them today. As this remarkable volume reveals, the detective work involved in exploring design and craftsmanship,
European centres of production, individual makers, retail, patronage and collecting, is breathtaking and impressive. The catalyst for this, Kenneth Snowman’s groundbreaking publication of 1966, inspired a new generation of gold box collectors, including Sir Arthur
Gilbert, and scholars, notably Charles Truman, who together have given this glorious subject a new lease of life. Their passion and expertise is magnificently captured here in Tessa Murdoch’s and Heike Zech’s superb editing of the internationally-acclaimed papers given at the Going for Gold conference at the Wallace Collection and the V&A, London, in 2010.” Dame Rosalind Savill, former Director of The Wallace Collection

Scents of history in gold snuff boxes
“Given the spate of recent scholarly publications on gold boxes, all building on Kenneth Snowman’s pioneering work of 1966, it would be reasonable to wonder what more could be said. This volume publishes the papers given at the conference of the same name held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in collaboration with the Wallace Collection, London, in 2010. It contains 17 essays, with an international spread of authors, from museums, the trade and independent scholars, who bring novel angles and provide readable and sometimes highly entertaining snapshots of patrons and production centres across Europe.

Many of the topics have been touched on before, but there is much that is new, and what this compilation does especially well is to reveal the complexity of distribution and how widely available this material was.

The book also has much information on how gold boxes were sold. Vanessa Brett has unearthed the families who ran the most successful “toy shops” in; England and how they functioned, from papers in local records offices, bank accounts and contemporary newspapers. There is also a section dedicated to collectors: Count von Brühl in Dresden, Queen Mary, the Rothschilds.

This is, in short, an essential work that serves equally as a scholarly advance on existing knowledge and a perfect introduction to why gold boxes matter.”

“Amply illustrated, each essay succeeds in furthering the foundation of knowledge set forth by pioneering experts and authors Kenneth Snowman and Charles Truman, confidently putting forth original ideas and theories, or adding new dimensions to the discussion of gold boxes. This volume succeeds in assembling a wealth of multidisciplinary essays that will appeal to collectors, artists, designers, scholars, historians, dealers and those simply interested in these fascinating objects capable of commanding considerable and deserved attention
throughout the centuries.” Reviewed by Elizabeth Williams, Journal of the History of Collections, vol. 27, no. 1 (March 2015)

“Whereas the boxes were originally conceived to hold snuff, their precious materials and high quality workmanship soon made them objects of desire and personal display at the highest social levels, collectors’ pieces that also had a practical use. Many remained in princely ownership until the 20th century, when a new generation of collectors and scholars became involved and sale room values soared. The Gilbert Collection of decorative arts contains about 220 boxes, and was given to Great Britain in 1996. It is housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and both the conference and the present book were sponsored by the Gilbert Trust for the Arts.” The Huguenot Society Journal, Vol. XXX no. 2 (2014


Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
344 pp. / 297 x 210 mm
Release Date:
March 2014
  Illustrated:   Illustrated throughout, including circa 70 colour images
Hardback Price:
£50.00 / $75.00

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