A two-colour gold and enamel snuff box

A two-colour gold and enamel snuff box

By Etienne-Lucien Blerzy
In Paris, circa 1800

8.9cm., 3½in. wide

With rectangular, the lid, sides and base enamelled in opaque bright lilac with a regular pattern of black pellets within fine gold circles, enamelled black leaf borders and plain black frames around the side panels, maker's mark, Paris unofficial 2me titre et petite garantie, rim numbered: 118, with note of provenance,

Within the box there is an accompanying photocopy of a hand-written letter stating that the box was presented by Empress Josephine to Dr Widnmann (1765-1848), who gave it to Louis Widmann as a confirmation present in the Bavarian town of Eichstädt on 30 May 1806.

Franz Seraph Amand Widnmann (1765-1848) was a renowned German doctor councillor mostly remembered for his contributions to the development of homoeopathic medicine. He was the son of privy council Johann Baptist Widnmann and worked as a specialist in forensic medicine in Eichstädt. In 1817, Widnmann was appointed advisor and personal doctor to Eugène de Beauharnais (1781-1824), Duke of Leuchtenberg and Eichstätt, and - through the second marriage of his mother, Joséphine de Beauharnais - stepson of Napoléon Bonaparte. Napoléon considered Eugène to be the most capable member of his family and therefore adopted the son of his first wife Empress Joséphine, on 12 January 1806, although he did not become heir to the imperial throne. Eugène was, however, declared heir presumptive to the Kingdom of Italy in February 1806, after Napoleon had been crowned King of Italy on 7 June 1805 and had appointed Eugène Viceroy of Italy to the Italian Legislative Assembly. It was also Napoléon who chose the candidate for Eugène’s marriage for political reasons, but it was nonetheless a happy one: on 14 January 1806, Eugène married Princess Augusta Amalia of Bavaria (1788–1851), eldest daughter of Napoleon's ally, King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria. The couple had seven children. After Napoleon’s abdication in 1814, Eugène moved to Bavaria to join his wife’s family and his father-in-law later made him Duke of Leuchtenberg and Prince of Eichstätt. Throughout his life, Eugène's relationship with both his mother and his sister Hortense de remained very close, both children are said to have mediated on several occasions between Josephine and Napoleon during their tumultuous marriage. It is therefore little surprising that Josephine presented Eugène's doctor with this token of gratitude for maintaining her beloved son's health.

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