An Exceptional Gold and Agate Snuff Box made for Anne of Buccleuch

12th October 2022

Provenance 

Presumably made for Anne, 1st Duchess of Buccleuch (1651-1732)

This snuff box has a fine engraved armorial on the bottom. The combination of the crest and the cypher has allowed a precise identification of the original owner of the box to be made. The cypher incorporates the letters B A B for Anne, 1st Duchess of Buccleuch.

02951 - A gold and agate snuff box belonging to Anne, first Duchess of Buccleuch
02951 – A gold and agate snuff box belonging to Anne, first Duchess of Buccleuch

This, in combination with the crest which is for the Scott family and the Ducal coronet, means that the piece can only have been made for a member of the Ducal Buccleuch family.

Anne was the younger of the two surviving co-heiress daughters of Francis, 2nd Earl of Buccleuch, who died in 1651, the year of her birth. She succeeded her sister as 2nd Countess in 1661.  (Although her sister had been married, this was found to be unlawful since she was aged only 11 and the titles could not thus pass to her husband.)   In 1663 Anne herself was wed at the age of 12 to the 14 year-old James, Duke of Monmouth, the eldest illegitimate son of Charles II by Lucy Walters.  Upon their marriage he assumed the name of Scott and they were jointly created Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch. Three years later they resigned all their titles and estates in order for a new grant to be made giving them ‘several and independent’ rights in the event of the death of the other.  In 1685, following the king’s death in February, James spearheaded an anti-catholic revolt to depose the new king, James II, and claim the throne from his uncle. The brief Monmouth Rebellion ended in defeat and James, Duke of Monmouth and Buccleuch was executed for treason in July 1685. Although his honours were all forfeited by attainder, those of his wife Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch, were retained in her own right.  The Duchess had six children by Monmouth, and a further three by her second husband, Charles Cornwallis, 3rd Baron Cornwallis, whom she married in 1688.  She died in 1732 and was succeeded by her grandson, Francis, Earl of Dalkeith, as 2nd Duke.

02951 - A gold and agate snuff box belonging to Anne, first Duchess of Buccleuch back
02951 – A gold and agate snuff box belonging to Anne, first Duchess of Buccleuch back

The Chasing of the Box

The style of chasing used on this box is very reminiscent of a signed piece in the Gilbert Collection-currently on loan to the V&A. The Gilbert piece, English in origin, is signed by the chaser known only by his surname-Burel.

The Gilbert example also incorporates a similar hunting scene and, perhaps more significantly, very similar strap work framing the hunting scene in the frieze. As a result of this, it is appropriate to attribute our piece to the Burel workshop as well although it is likely that our box dates to some time before 1685-possibly even 1672 when Anne of Buccleuch came of age and gave birth to her first child.

This is an exceptional example of a snuff box from this period with exciting provenance.

We are very grateful to Angela Howard for her work on the heraldry on this box and her full research, including references to other examples featuring similar mantling and of a contemporary date, is available upon request.

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