The Choiseul Snuffbox

The Choiseul Snuffbox is a true masterpiece and one of the most famous french 18th century objects in the world. This year, the Louvre’s “Tous Mécènes” crowdfunding campaign raised more than 1.2 million euros from over 5000 donors the world over, including the American Friends of the Louvre, toward the total 3,9 million sum required to acquire this national treasure.

The paragon of goldsmithery, the Choiseul Snuffbox is painted on its six sides with miniatures of unrivaled quality. Held in the palm of one’s hand, we observe a male character in his Parisian hotel; in his office in Versailles and in the Grand Gallery of the Louvre.

The man portrayed is the Duc de Choiseul, powerful minister of Louis XV, and each vignette is a glimpse into his day: getting dressed, working alone, in conversation with his clerks, or contemplating his painting collections.

Louis-Nicolas Van Blarenberghe, who was de Choiseul’s battle painter, created the snuffbox from 1770 to 1771, at the time of the Minister’s brutal disgrace and exile from the Court, but the circumstances of the commission remain a mystery. Was it a personal commission from Choiseul? The image of a lost happiness? A comforting gift from his friends?

The Choiseul Snuffbox is currently on view in the Sully Wing, Room 609.