An important French Imperial gold snuff box with the cipher of Napoleon Bonaparte by Léger-Fortuné-Alexandre Ricart, Paris c.1808-15, also with the post-revolutionary unofficial standard mark for 18 carat gold for Paris and the incuse inventory number 408

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Lot 27*
An important French Imperial gold snuff box with the cipher of Napoleon Bonaparte
by Léger-Fortuné-Alexandre Ricart, Paris c.1808-15, also with the post-revolutionary unofficial standard mark for 18 carat gold for Paris and the incuse inventory number 408

Sold for £ 69,000 (US$ 94,582) inc. premium
An important French Imperial gold snuff box with the cipher of Napoleon Bonaparte
by Léger-Fortuné-Alexandre Ricart, Paris c.1808-15, also with the post-revolutionary unofficial standard mark for 18 carat gold for Paris and the incuse inventory number 408
Rectangular, the cover chased with a central N-cipher flanked by palm fronds and a sheathed sword on a pricked ground in an extended hexagonal studded frame over the crossed sceptre of Charlemagne and the staff with the Hand of Justice and flanked by stylised anthemions on a matted ground with four laurel wreath spandrels centred with applied bright five-pointed stars all within a geometric frame and foliate border interrupted with bees and laurel wreaths, the flange with a similar chased frieze of honeysuckle and bell-husks centred on an N and interrupted with five-pointed stars, over diaper engine-turned panels within bell husk borders, the base with a similar diaper panel and matching border, contained within a red Morocco leather case with gilt tooling and silk-lined interior, length 8.4cm, weight 138gms.


  • Provenance:
    Bequeathed by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte to his son, Napoleon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte (1811-1832)
    Jérôme-Napoleon Bonaparte, King of Westphalia, Prince of Montfort (1784–1860)
    Jérôme Napoleon Charles Bonaparte, Prince of Montfort (1814-1847)
    Giovanni Maria di Francesco Ginori, (1788-1858)
    Gino Ginori Conti, Prince of Trevignano (1836-1907)
    Piero Ginori Conti, Prince of Trevignano (1865-1939)
    Thence by descent to the present owner

    The box has been passed down with and a hand written letter from Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, Florence, 8 May 1837, to Giovanni Maria di Francesco Ginori:

    Mon cher Ginori,

    C'est avec le desir de vous donnez une preuve de l'affection bien reelle que je vous porte, et vous remercier de tous les soins affectueux que vous n'avez prodigue[s] pendant mon sejour a Florence que je vous prie d'accepter comme souvenir un objet, qui j'espere sera apprecie par vous: c'est une tabatiere
    que feu mon auguste Oncle l'Empereur Napoleon avait a Ste. Helene, ......
    Mon pere en me la donnant a entrerement approuve l'usage que j'en fais aujourd'hui. C'est avec un sentiment de veritable attachement que je vous prie d'agreer l'assiurance de ma haute estime et de ma consideration distinguee avec laquelle je suis de votre Excellence le tres affectionne, Jérôme Napoleon Bonaparte, Florence 8 Mai 1837

    "It is with the desire to give you a proof of the very real affection that I have for you, and to thank you for all the affectionate care that you have lavished during my stay in Florence that I ask you to accept as a souvenir an object, which I hope will be appreciated by you: it is a snuffbox
    that my late Uncle the Emperor Napoleon had in Ste. Helene, ......
    By giving it to me, my father approves the use I make of it today. It is with a feeling of genuine attachment that I ask you to accept the assurance of my high esteem and my distinguished consideration with which I am your very affectionate Excellency, Jérôme Napoleon Bonaparte, Florence, 8 May 1837"

    Giovanni Maria di Francesco Ginori was in the service of Elisa Baciocchi, Archduchess of Tuscany and sister of Napoleon Bonaparte until the fall of the French Empire. He went on to be appointed Lorena Court Chamberlain in 1814 and, in 1818, personal chamberlain to Archduke Leopold of Lorena, Lord Chamberlain in 1833 and Finance Counsellor in 1840.

    The letter has remained with the box until this time, and has been retained by the vendor. The letter written by the nephew of Napoleon, describes that the present lot as one of the several snuff boxes taken by Napoleon Bonaparte to Saint Helena. The box is specifically mentioned in Napoleon's Last Will and Testament kept at the Armoire de Fer at the Archives Nationales, Paris,

    Extract from Chantal Prevot, Fondation Napoleon, (in English translation) January 2007:

    Part II
    1. I bequeath to my son the boxes, orders, and other articles; such as my plate, field-beds, arms, saddles, spurs, chapel-plate, books, linen which I have been accustomed to wear and use, according to the list annexed (A). It is my wish that this slight bequest may be dear to him, as coming from a father of whom the whole world will remind him.

    List (A) is as follows:

    1. None of the articles which have been used by me shall be sold; the residue shall be divided amongst the executors of my will and my brothers.
    2. Marchand shall preserve my hair, and cause a bracelet to be made of it, with a little gold clasp, to be sent to the Empress Maria Louisa, to my mother, and to each of my brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, the Cardinal; and one of larger size for my son.
    3. Marchand will send one pair of my gold shoe-buckles to Prince Joseph.
    4. A small pair of gold knee-buckles to Prince Lucien.
    5. A gold collar-clasp to Prince Jerome.

    Inventory of my effects, which Marchand will take care of, convey to my son.

    My silver dressing-case, that which is on my table, furnished with all its utensils, razors, &c. My alarum-clock: it is the alarum-clock of Frederic II. which I took at Potsdam (in box No. III.). My two watches, with the chain of the Empress's hair and a chain of my own hair for the other watch: Marchand will get it made at Paris. My two seals (one the seal of France, contained in box No. III.). The small gold clock which is now in my bed-chamber. My wash-hand-stand and its water-jug. My night-tables, those used in France, and my silver-gilt bidet. My two iron bedsteads, my mattresses, and my coverlets, if they can be preserved. My three silver decanters, which held my eau-de-vie., and which my chasseurs carried in the field. My French telescope. My spurs, two pairs. Three mahogany boxes, Nos. I. II. III., containing my snuff-boxes and other articles. A silver-gilt perfuming pan.

    Linen: 6 shirts, six handkerchiefs, 6 cravates, six towels, six pairs of silk stockings, four black collars, six pairs of socks, 2 pairs of batiste sheets, 2 pillow cases, 2 dressing gowns, 2 pairs of night trousers, 1 pair of braces, 4 all-in-one vests in white casimir, 6 madras kerchiefs, 6 flannel waistcoats, 4 pairs of underpants, 6 pairs of gaiters, 1 small box for my tobacco, 1 gold collar-clasp (in small box number III), 1 pair of gold knee-buckles (idem), 1 pair of gold shoe-buckles (idem)

    Though the will was not codified, as the government of Louis XVIII refused to have it signed by a French notary, the personal items were distributed amongst family members. This was not always in accordance with Napoleon's wishes, hence the box passing to his brother rather than his son.

    For a box with a similarly styled N cipher in diamonds, see these rooms, 13 Nov 2013, lot 31. A further box, similar, with an informal script-N cipher and the marks of Blerzy and Marguerite was sold these rooms 23 Nov 2011, lot 14.

    Nicolas Marguerite, Au vase d'Or, 177 rue Saint-Honoré, received between March and August 1806, an order from the Imperial court for 100 gold boxes, decorated with diamonds, ciphers and portraits at 380,688 Fr, see Alphonse Maze-Sencier, Les fournisseurs de Napoleon Ier et des deux Imperatrices d'apres des documants inedits (Paris 1893), p.276. The box is almost identical to one sold at Christies, Paris, 29 Nov 2017, lot 15. The boxes have the same central panel on the cover with slight differences to the border of the top and sides of the cover.
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