Objects with musical mechanism and automaton

Snuffbox with automaton

    Snuffbox with automaton

    Snuffbox - Russian Empire (?), Switzerland, Britain


    Wartski - the case

    Brass, steel, enamel, glass, gold, diamonds; engraving, painted enamel, enamel over guilloche, gems setting

    Diameter 8.1 cm (overall); height 3.2 cm, 253 g


    The domed glazed and hinged lid, enclosing a scene of the interior of a music room with multi-colour gold detail automaton of a lady seated, playing a xylophone, a conductor keeping time with a baton and a small boy accompanying with a triangle, standing beside a sleeping dog, the room behind in painted enamel with drapes and furnishings, with applied oval enamel plaque of blue guilloche set with diamond Cyrillic monogram EP to top center, with the plain gold border inscribed in Russian July 22, 1827, set in to octagonal box with curved top and base edges, decorated with chiselled bands of green foliage and wreaths against stippled ground, the sides with applied intertwining branches and the base with a polished circular panel of mocha agate, enclosed with further foliage bands, the plain interior and the movement cover, opening to reveal pierced winding and regulator plates and decorated border, with replaced winding key, fitted in later Wartski of London red twin-door case. The Cyrillic monogram applied in diamonds is that of Elena Pavlovna, née Princess Charlotte of Württemberg (1807-1873). She married Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich (1798 -1849) in 1824. The date inscribed around this monogram is the feast day of St. Mary Magdalen and is thought to be the Saint's day of Maria Feodorovna, mother of Mikhail Pavlovich. Maria Feodorovna was the aunt of Elena Pavlovna as well as her mother-in-law and it is very likely that this box was a gift from the Czarina to her niece and daughter-in-law. Elena Pavlovna was a patron of the Russian Musical Society and on a visit in 1867; Hector Berlioz was invited to play with the society. Elena Pavlovna's interest in music was enhanced at an early stage when as a small child, was educated in art, music and literature within the court. The family wished her to marry and settle in this way and this placed her passion for the creative arts at the center of attention during a time when world-renowned composers were reaching new heights in Russia and abroad. This music automaton box may well have been present at the Russian Musical Society at this time and handled by the likes of Berlioz and Verdi.