An important tri-color gold Russian Imperial Presentation portrait snuff box, circa 1830; probably of German origin. Rectangular, with rounded corners, the lid inset with an oval portrait miniature of Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855) after the 1826 portrait by Vasily Tropinin within a bezel chased with green gold laurel band against a yellow gold stippled ground, the lid further decorated with chased yellow, green and rose gold wreaths and flowers, the base and sides with an engine-turned pattern relieved by chased acanthus leaves or pine cones at each corner; the front exterior flange with two areas of scratching, possibly indicating areas of obscured marks, the left exterior flange with scratched inventory or collection number 342, the right exterior flange with later struck with the letters ET for étranger, the French gold import mark in use between 1864 and 1893, and Russian marks indicating that it had been imported between 1908 and 1917 for sale at auction or through an antiques dealer. Dimensions: 3 3/8 x 2 1/4 in. (8.5 x 5.7 cm).
The image of a young Nicholas I is certainly based on Tropinin’s portrait (M.P. Kroshitskii Art Museum, Sebastopol, inv. Zh-238), because it copies the refined facial features and such small details as the orders which have fallen across the blue sash of the Order of St. Andrew. It is, of course, also quite similar to George Dawe’s 1821 portrait of the young man, then a Grand Duke, but the portrait of the young Emperor seems the more likely source.
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