A very fine and rare gold rectangular snuff box and cover
Daoguang, circa 1830-40, Chinese and English maker's marks KHC for Khecheong, Canton Delicately chased with diagonal and wavy-patterned grounds, the edges fashioned in the form of curling vines and ruyi-heads, the top reserved with a plain panel bordered by four leaves at the corners, the ornate thumbpiece resembling fruits issuing from dense leaves, the inside with impressed 'KHC' mark with another character. 6.3cm wide; 4.2cm deep; 1.5cm high.
清道光 約1830-1840年 金如意雲頭形扁鼻煙盒
This rectangular snuff box represents a new shape in the English silversmith's design catalogue. Shallow rectangular boxes of this proportion began to be made in England in about 1820, and are often associated with Birmingham and London goldsmiths. They were clearly expensive commissions originally, being made in solid gold or silver, and elaborately decorated either with formal patterns like the present lot, or with landscapes and views of famous buildings (like Windsor Castle).
The present lot is exceptionally interesting because it is extremely close in design and form to a well-known box published in the US in 1985, made by the same Canton goldsmith. The US example is in the Chait Collection, New York, and was exhibited on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Ralph M.Chait Galleries Inc. in a major show of Chinese Export silver. See John Devereux Kernan, Catalogue, no.88 for a very similar box by KHC (Khe Chong), which has a fascinating provenance. It is engraved T.Hunt on the top and is known to have belonged to Thomas Hunt of Salem, Massachusetts, who ran a ship chandlery business in about 1850 from a boat moored in Whampoa Reach, on the Pearl River. He and his wife Elizabeth are known to have had a considerable amount of silver. At the time of the Chait Exhibition, the author noted that the Chait box was 'the only observed example of a [Chinese Export] piece made entirely of gold.
The goldsmith Khe Chong was the most prolific manufacturer in Canton. He was located in 'Club Street', the name given by Westerners to a prominent thoroughfare in the European section of Honan Island directly across from the Old Factory site in Canton; the firm was situated near the silver shops of Leeching (best known as a jeweller) and Hoaching, who also handled ivory carvings. See H.A. Crosby Forbes, John Devereux Kernan and Ruth S.Wilkins, Chinese Export Silver 1785-1885, Milton, 1975, pp.77-8, for a full discussion about Khe Chong and the range of his products; and p.234, pl.196, for a comparable silver tinder box by him in the collection of what was then The Museum of the American China Trade (now the Peabody Essex Museum).
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