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a gold and pietra dura snuff box, johann christian neuber, d

€500,000 - €700,000

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oval, the chased gold cagework inlaid on lid and base in a variety of hardstones including porphyry, bloodstone, agate, lapis and chalcedony with an architectural perspective of galeried arches framed by pillars set with oval moss agate panels and below loose laurel swags, the lid with a central lapis lazuli table, the sides with a similar arrangement of arches and pillars strikingly contrasting teal green chrysoprase arcades with bloodstone and orange agate pillarets below further laurel swags and moss agate ovals, the gold delicately engraved to emphasise the architectural elements and with narrow chevron borders to the sides,  apparently unmarked,  in plush-lined green shagreen case 8.7 cm, 3 3/8 in wide - Collection of Alexander Baring, 4 th  Baron Ashburton (1835-1889) - Sold by his daughter, Mrs Adam, Christie's, 7 July 1947, lot 13 Alexander Hugh Baring, 4th Baron Ashburton was descended from a dynasty of bankers with a strong interest in the arts and collecting. Among the most notable collectors was his grandfather, created 1st Baron Ashburton in 1835, who, in the words of Gustav Friedrich Waagen, united 'an ardent love for the fine arts with extraordinary wealth'. Since he 'expended very large sums in the gratification of this taste [he] succeeded in acquiring a choice collection of Dutch and Flemish pictures from the most celebrated cabinets in Europe' including many of the masterpieces formerly belonging to Prince Talleyrand. The pictures were divided between his country estate at The Grange, Northington, in Hampshire and Bath House, London, known later as the 'Palazzo di Piccadilly' when the collection was lavishly expanded by his heir, the 2nd Lord Ashburton. The 4th Baron's cousin, the banker and politician Thomas Baring, had also inherited the collecting gene together with a prodigious appetite for purchasing pictures (of his house a visitor noted 'the pictures and china are renowned; so is the cooking') – and he is the first member of the family with a recorded interest in gold boxes, having exhibited an impressive group at the Special Loan Exhibition at the South Kensington Museum in 1862 (nos. 4149-4167). The Christie's 1947 sale of the 4th Baron's gold box collection by his daughter Lilian (1874-1962), widow of Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Adam, was shared with a further group described as 'From the collection of the 3rd Lord Ashburton, now sold by order of Frances, Lady Ashburton', showing that the 3rd Baron (son of the 1st; brother of the 2nd and father of the 4th Baron) had also been a gold box collector. Interestingly all three collections included snuff boxes either by or very probably by Neuber: Thomas Baring had lent three boxes attributable to Neuber to the 1862 Loan Exhibition, the 3rd Baron owned one  and the 4th Baron owned three including the present box, which sold for 651 guineas, a signed example decorated with pansies (Sotheby's London, Treasures sale, 6 July 2010, lot 15) which sold for the same price, and a third numbered specimen box attributed to Neuber but actually the work of C.G. Stiehl, then acquired by King Farouk (later sold Sotheby's, Palace Collections of Egypt, 10-17 March 1954, lot 705).