Snuff Box

Snuff Box

c. 1780–90


Johann Christian Neuber

(German, 1736–1808; active Dresden 1762-c.1800)

Gold, multi-colored hardstone

Overall: 2.9 x 5.7 x 4.3 cm (1 1/8 x 2 1/4 x 1 11/16 in.)

Gift of Howard F. Stirn 2009.35


Did you know?

Because of his use of rare hardstones cut in tiny intricate patterns, Johann Christian Neuber's works, including small ones such as this snuffbox, are highly prized by museums and collectors alike.


Snuff was a scented form of tobacco powder, traditionally sniffed for maximum effect. The practice of inhaling a pinch of snuff was common in England during the 1600s and became widespread in other countries in the 1700s. The demand for decorated snuffboxes, considered valuable gifts, increased as the practice spread. Some were small enough to fit in a waistcoat pocket and gave 18th-century craftsmen an opportunity to execute rich and elaborate designs on a small scale. One of the most talented German goldsmiths, Johann Christian Neuber, was particularly adept at cutting and insetting rare hardstones sourced from the rich mines of northern Germany. He created a kaleidoscope of color on every surface of this little box in radiant patterns. Neuber's work was so renowned that he was made court jeweler to the elector of Saxony, Frederick Augustus the Third (1750-1827) in 1775.

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