A silver and crystal table snuff box found on trade me ( http://www.trademe.co.nz/antiques-collectables/silver-metalware-tins/silver/sterling/auction-587007867.htm ), auctioned by the user mopar110 and described as follows:
“A really nice sterling and crystal antique art nouveau table snuff box in excellent condition. Hallmarked for 1904 in the town of Birmingham by silversmith Deakin & Francis this snuff box stands 2.5cm high,7cm wide & 3.5 cm deep. There are no rub holes or tears the sterling lid is golded (sic) on the inside the crystal has a couple of small flea bites.”
This silver and crystal table snuff box was put on auction by a user with the alias of mopar110. He claims it is a art nouveau design and I am inclined to concur. Looking at the box we can observe complex carving representing flowers and what seems to be an aubergine. These motifs are in accord with the traditional curvilinear organic and botanical aspects of Art Nouveau design that is derived from a historical influence from Rococo that also originated in France. They are very reminiscent of the drawings of Hernst Heackle in “Art Forms in Nature” (Germany 1862). The box is further decorated with elements related to the exotic nature of art nouveau. Along the side of the lid we can observe a frieze made up of crescent shapes, very reminiscent of Islamic and, in general, Middle-Eastern art and architecture as the crescent is a recurring symbol in the Middle-East. Moreover, the sides of the box are decorated with geometric patterns, yet again, reminiscent of Middle-Eastern art and architecture, more specifically tiles and mosaics that can be found in Middle-Eastern architecture. Finally, the bottom of the box is decorated with a compass rose, this element also implies the theme of travel that goes with the exotic influence of Art Nouveau. The materials out of which the box is made also account for the Art Nouveau style of the box; having been made of crystal, sterling silver and gilded on the inside, these are pretty expensive if not exotic materials. Finally, the last element that supports this box being an Art Nouveau piece is the date at which it was created, 1904 is towards the end of the Art Nouveau period.
Someone like A. W. N. Pugin, who was an important figure of the Gothic Revival, would have been extremely critical about this box as it displays its opposition to “the true principles of art and design” and displays “cheap and false magnificence” (A. W. N. Pugin, 1843) because of it's ostentatious nature and the way the silver is shaped to resemble flowers which wouldn't be, according to Pugin, appropriate decoration for the function that the object serves. A defender of the Arts and Craft movement would also say something similar, considering this box to be amoral.
Though I respect both these points of view, I find this box to be fairly subtle as the choice of materials makes for a relatively “white” and discreet piece that while not being suitable for all interiors could fit harmoniously into even certain modern interiors. It is a nice and well crafted box.
Pugin, A.W.N. (1843). An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture in England. London, Great Britain: John Weale