Billet doux, quite literally "sweet note" - that is term and purpose of these rare wonderful bits of the 1700s past. This one is spectacular with hand painted scenes of 1700s life, including a couple and their baby in carriage (see images). Some would misidentify this as a cigar case, and I suppose one could use it that way, but it's not what the item is. These are truly fascinating old treasures of the era of Marie-Antoinette and shortly before/afterward, and while some misidentify them as being cigar cases, they have a much more fascinating history. This is a French 'billet doux', roughly translated, it means 'sweet note'. In those times, it was white usual for the elite and titled, (and Royals) to have affairs, clandestine meetings with amour as theme, and of course other correspondences with friends and love interests. The typical passing of messages, hand carried by the courier or trusted servant of one person to the intended recipient, these 'billet doux' would hold within them a rolled up and sometimes wax-sealed note. Once received and read, the recipient would often be expected to respond and send the servant back with his or her reply again rolled and housed within the billet doux. These are all roughly the same size, but they were quite broad in decoration. This one is a bit unusual and very beautiful. "Vernis Martin" is the term used for layering of paint and varnish. The decorative style was a favorite of French Queen Marie-Antoinette, and you'll see everything from furniture to decorative objects like this and even fans decorated in this style, usually with color. This one is in pen work black layered with varnish, a' la the Brothers Martin. The charming appearance on this one of the child in carriage is very rare to find. Lovely old thing.
Very good to excellent condition. A little roughness around the rim of the insert lip of the tube, visible in our images. The case is bone, evidenced by the elongated striations, and is trimmed out in horn. A wonderful piece - RARE! No other loss, no chips to body, no cracks, no hairlines. Only the slight roughness and tiny hairline to top of inside lip, visible for inspection.