The European Decorative Arts Company is proud to present an outstanding collection of European Ivory Carvings from the 17th through the 19th centuries. The group of ivory sculptures featured on this website reflect many of the major art movements that took place in Europe, from the Baroque and Neo-classical, through the Romantic and Historicist periods. Our collection of ivory sculptures from the seventeenth and the eighteenth century include  religious and secular sculptures, and works by Simon Troger, Belleteste, and JJ Betzoldt.


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Ivory Snuffbox, Circa 1730-40

Date: Circa 1730-40
Materials/Techniques:    Ivory, original gilt-metal mounts
Dimensions: h 2.25"
w 2.875"
d 1.875 "

Origin: Probably German
Inventory #: 223

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Snuff, smokeless flavoured tobacco inhaled through the nose with a quill or spoon, was de rigueur among men and women in the 18th century and small containers - snuff boxes - were made in a variety of materials to accommodate this fashionable pastime. Its popularity was such that wealthy individuals owned several snuffboxes to match their clothes and eventually “......distinctions began to be made (especially in Paris) amongst boxes for particular sexes, seasons and costumes”1 It also became very popular among royalty, and later among the nobility and gentry, to give snuffboxes as gifts becoming “.....the most acceptable gesture of esteem, suitable for ambassadors, the nobility [and] singers....”.2 While many snuffboxes were produced in the 18th century, those carved entirely out of ivory are very rare and “uncommon in the eighteenth century.”3


The shape of this box, with its delicately waisted body of flaring bombé form decorated on the sides in the régence taste with a diaper pattern, can be compared with German hardstone or porcelain examples, particularly those made at Meissen. The reverse of the box is decorated with a jolly toper holding a wine jug and a cup; the front with a flaming heart (symbol of love) flanked by two images of Cupid (god of love), one holding an arrow and the other a bow (see detail). Based on this imagery, and the carved scene on the lid of the box depicting Helen being escorted back to her husband, Menelaus, after running away from him with Paris, we can deduce that this box was most likely given as a gift by a man to his female lover, perhaps in an effort to win back her affections.

Related literature:

1 Clare Le Corbeiller, European and American Snuffoboxes 1730-1830, The Viking Press, 1966, p. 14.

2 Le Corbeiller, ibid, p. 17.

3 Ibid., p. 86.