Snuffbox with a miniature portrait of King Léopold II

The acquisition of this gold snuffbox by the Christian Bauwens Fund has enabled us to fill an important gap in the history of gold and silverwork in Belgium. Both the origin and the very manner in which this prestigious object was created are of considerable interest.

Whilst admiring this snuffbox, with its blue enamelled lid, one is struck by the magnificent miniature oval portrait of King Leopold II. The portrait is inspired by a photograph taken around 1875 by the brothers Géuzet. As in the photograph, Leopold is wearing two decorations: the Order of the Toison d’Or (Order of the Golden Fleece) and the Star of the Grand Cordon Civil of the Order of Leopold. The former was awarded to Leopold on the occasion of his marriage to Marie-Henriette of Austria by the Emperor Franz-Joseph and the second, in the same year, 1853, for his eighteenth birthday. The plaque of the Order of Leopold, created by Gustave Wolfers, is now kept at DIVA in Antwerp.

The portrait is surrounded by sixteen diamonds set in silver, whilst a further six diamonds are set amidst ivy leaves in gold. The sides of the box are also richly decorated. The underneath of the box is attached to the lid with rivets and the cover has a rich border, an upper panel and an inner panel. The borders are decorated with figures but further research is needed to establish their meaning.

The snuffbox may have come from the workshops of Weishaupt Söhne in Hanau, since several other unmarked snuffboxes, also linked to Leopold II, have been successfully attributed to the workshop. It is difficult to say whether August Dufour, supplier to the court, was responsible for the miniature. Whatever the case, this jeweller-goldsmith was paid for delivering snuffboxes on several occasions and he certainly enjoyed an excellent reputation at the time for his jewellery, silver tableware and ceremonial pieces. At present, there are few certified pieces of his work.

This snuffbox probably comes from the heritage of Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria-Hungary. A commission for jewellery as well as a snuffbox was certainly made, at the request of Queen Marie-Henriette on the birth of his daughter Elisabeth-Marie, but it is difficult to ascertain that this was the object in question. What is certain, however, is that Dufour was regularly paid between 1901 and 1905 for the creation of snuffboxes and similar types of work. Snuffboxes were often used as gifts to cement good relations.

Material / technique: 
Gold, diamonds, silver, ivory and glass
92 x 75 x 42 mm
Type of acquisition: 
Acquired by the Christian Bauwens Fund
Year of acquisition: 
Depository institution: 
DIVA – Museum of Silverwork, Jewellery and Diamonds, Antwerp