Wonderful Antique Papier Mache Snuff Box celebrating Halloween


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THE STORY - Oh my goodness when I first saw this Snuff Box, I gasped as my brain simply could not take in all the many facets to the narrative of the illustration on the lid. Of course I could read the words 'To Burn Their Nits an' pou their stocks an'haud their Halloween', but I had no idea what it referenced, I just knew I was in love this Snuff Box. On returning home I immediately started to research it and have found that the words are from the Poem 'Halloween' by Robert Burns written in 1785 and published in 1786, The poem is one of his longest ones with 252 lines and is written in both Scottish and English, the English translation of the words on the lid are 'To burn their nuts and pull their plants and keep their Halloween, with the poem being about the scottish traditions and activities around Halloween. The thing that interests me though is that I have read the poem a number of times and I still cannot quite work out how that illustration fits and can find no reference at all to the illustration itself. The illustration I thinks must be printed although there are many occasions I think it could be painted and as I write this I am still uncertain. At the centre of the scene there is a young woman with her dog appearing to be listening intently to the gentleman in what looks like a turban (no such gentleman is I believe spoken of in the poem), in-between the woman and the gentleman in the turban there appears to be five young people crowding each other and on the other side there are two gentlemen, one with a pipe looking on. I have seen contemporary illustrations of the poem and although they are set in an interior with a group of people they are in no way as anarchic as the illustration on this Snuff box. Wonderfully when you open the box you can still see the remnants of some old snuff that it once contained. Of course with no signature or date it is impossible to be completely certain as to the Box's age but my instinct tells me that it is most likely Georgian dating to circa 1800, and I would of thought it was a table snuff box as the lid does not screw on tightly.

AGE - Circa 1800

CONDITION - The Snuff Box is in good condition. There is some wear to the illustration on the lid which I hope you can see in the photographs, with the main damage being by the young girl's head in the yellow dress There are no breaks, splits or holes to the papier mache although there is some light crazing to the lacquer on the base. The lid does not screw closed to the base and I am unsure whether it ever did. I do want to point out that I think my photos portray the box as being slightly lighter in tone than it actually is.

DIMENSIONS (Approx) - Diameter - 3&1/2" / 8.5cm, Height - 1/2" / 1.5cm

And still when I look at that illustration on the lid of the box I find it hard to completely take the scene in, even though I have broken it down and looked at it umpteen times. I think part of the reason is that it is such an anarchic scene it is almost like it is fighting you. And I have fought all the way with this snuff box still not quite understanding it, and still not even certain whether it is a painting or a print on the lid. I have to say if it is a painting it really is very special and it could be because every time I look at it with my highly magnified loop I have failed to see one dot to confirm it is a print. And who the gentleman with a Turban is, I just don't know. Maybe Robbie Burns does!.....

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