Gold Box, Barriere, c.1780

Box angle 3

A Louis XVI gold and enamel ‘winter’ snuffbox by Jean Joseph Barrière, of rectangular form with canted corners, with six panels enamelled in opalescent sepia grisaille
accented in green, depicting a winter landscape,  the wavy guillochage mimicking rays of winter sunlight breaking through mist, the granulated gold borders enamelled with opaque white line and dot border and with leaf and berry motifs in green, red and opal enamel.

Jean Joseph Barrière,
Paris, 1779

7.8 cm by 3.8 cm by 2.5 cm.


From the collection of the late Sir Terence Rattigan


Eighteenth Century Gold Boxes of Europe by A. Kenneth Snowman, p. 231 (London, 1990)

In ‘Eighteenth Century Gold Boxes of Europe’, Kenneth Snowman describes the box as being of ‘the utmost finish in execution’.  Made in 1779, its lavishness reflects the pitch of luxury seen at the court of a royal dynasty in the last decade of its existence.

Barrière has skilfully used the nature of his materials to enhance the impact of the piece; the opal, green and red enamels employed to decorate the border have a jewel-like intensity, whilst the wavy guillochage beneath  the enamelled panels creates the effect of light breaking through mist.  Barrière’s use of sepia and the delicacy of his brush strokes also subtly suggest the striations of moss agate, another material favoured by the goldsmiths of the day.  The serene rusticity of the scenes shown echoes Dutch landscape painting,
and Kenneth Snowman identified the winter or moonlight scenes by Aert van der Neer as of particular influence.

Boxes by Barrière are held in many international collections and museums, including the Louvre, the Rijksmuseum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  One example, held in the Louvre, depicts the royal chateaux with Versailles in the top panel; another in the Metropolitan Museum of Art bears the cipher of Catherine the Great.