A stunning fine example of the reason these fabulous 19th century French enamel boxes are so sought after, this one rises above all in fine condition. These are usually referred to as Tahan, though only a few have the signature TAHAN Paris on the inner lock plate. This one does not have the signature, but we know they're ones that were marketed through that world class purveyor of goods to the King, elite of the 19th century world. They were, if you ask the French experts, kiln-fired enamels made by enamelists of Sevres, France, or of Bresse, France (Bressen enamel) for the luxury goods maker/seller, TAHAN, Paris (one of the finest purveyors, on par with Tiffany here in the USA for 19th century quality, luxury). The enamel industry from Sevres is not the RMS or Royal Manufactory de Sevres you think of for porcelains, though the skill and talent as decorators working in slip or enamel crosses over between the two industries, therefore making it a simple art to reside among these artisans, after all. This box is not signed, but it is definitely of the finest quality enamel work, and consistent with those others we have and have had that were signed TAHAN, Paris.
This process, which I've written about many times, is one only accomplished with the skill of years and years of practice. The enamel powders are various shades of muddy mauve, taupe, blues, not the least resembling the color they will become once the kiln melts them into the glassine or porcelain like finished product you see here. So an artist is layering on stroke after stroke, working quite literally blind as far as the colors and spacing of the finished outcome he/she hopes to achieve. It is the memory that guides the hand in this art. And subject to such whims of nature and memory, it's always amazing to me that they come out with anything but a glob. I've tried this art, myself, and believe me, it's very difficult. I mostly get globs. The nature of the process is part of the reason why these old kiln-fired objects have such a following and bring the prices they continue to bring.
Very good condition for age and type, a few faint hairlines on this one but no chips and no cracks to speak of. The pale yellow is a rare and superb color in these old ones. The box is a generous 5.5" long, 3" wide and 3" tall when closed, and the interior is beautifully preserved in original thick tuck-tufted silk, some light signs of its age. The cabriole legs and framework are all strong, tight, have perfectly housed the 5 separately worked deep convex plaques of copper that comprise the decorative sides and top of this old beauty. The jewel-dot work is typical of Bresse enamelists, but also of Sevres enamelists and we have no way to distinguish which ville's artisans have created this one. Such a beauty in display!
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