An unusual late 17th century English silver Box.
A late 17th century cut-cornered rectangular silver Box, maker’s mark only ‘TT’ with crown above, circa 1680, London. The lid of the box is engraved with scrolling foliage with cupid at the centre a fruit in each hand, below the motto ‘Malgre la Vie’; the base of the box is engraved with an eagle displayed, in one claw a group of arrows, in the other an olive branch, below the motto ‘A la guerre et a la Pais’; the sides of the box plain apart from the owners’ initials ‘G’ above ‘A G’ at the front.
The heraldic eagle grasping arrows and an olive branch in its talons was used by William Barton in the design of the seal of the United States, first proposed in 1782. Although elements of Barton’s design are clearly copied from heraldic eagles, the emblem of an eagle grasping arrows and an olive branch was not drawn from British heraldry and it must be assumed that Barton had seen an earlier depiction of such an eagle similar to that used for this box.
17th century English emblematic boxes are deserving of more study. The only work to attempt to examine them in detail is ‘Silver Boxes‘, by Eric Delieb [re-published by the Antique Collectors’ Club in 2002, pp.13-16]. The makers too, are something of a mystery and comprise a small group – few of whom have been concincingly identified. The marks that appear on these boxes [and also on some engraved trefid spoons and forks, beakers, scissor cases and needle/thimble cases] almost invariably have a crown or coronet above the initials. The marks include: ‘IG’ crowned; ‘IA’ crowned; ‘DS’ crowned; ‘L over DF’; ‘MR’ crowned; ‘IL over M’ with a crown above the whole [identified now as Jean Louis Marc]; ‘PR’ crowned; ‘WL’ below a fish [akin to the later identified mark of William Lestourgeon]; ‘TT’ crowned.
The last mark, which is the mark struck on this box, was tentatively identified by the spoon scholar, Timothy Kent, as perhaps the mark of Thomas Tysoe. The reason for his possible identification is the evidence of a fine imposed by the London Goldsmiths’ Company upon Thomas Tysoe for producing sub-standard spoons and a nutmeg grater. Whilst Kent’s ascription of the mark was no more than a suggestion, the mark ‘TT’ crown above is now usually firmly identified as that of Tysoe. But the evidence is slight and none of the makers of these emblematic or amatory boxes appear to have struck their marks on nutmeg graters.
Very good overall. The original interior steel spring removed and the rivet hole plugged.
Length – 4 cm.; width – 3.40 cm.; Depth – 1.50 cm.; Weight – 29.50 gms.