Bonbonnière,London, England, ca. 1755
Gift of the Panwy Foundation, from the Collection of Maria Wyman. 1994-129-3

Seductive Holders for Seductive Sweets

This small object has no real comparable in current life, even though we still like sweets.  While small lovely pillboxes might count, those have their own counterparts in the eighteenth century.  We do not normally carry around little boxes of candies in luxurious containers today, even if we are thrilled with special chocolates brought to us at home.  The bonbonnière belongs to a type of object often called an “object of vertu” in which the word vertu means virtuosity. The basic function of the object was really secondary to the display of craftsmanship and, in many cases, luxurious materials that served to indicate that the user and/or giver was a person of refinement, taste and wealth. 
Many such small boxes were for snuff. Like snuff, bonbons, or small candies were luxury items.  The bonbonnière would have been meant mostly for women, unlike the snuffbox.  Sweet foods have long been associated with temptation and being perhaps sinfully good.  They represent pure pleasure, not beneficial and more serious nutrition. So, it is appropriate that this one is rococo in design, a style associated with pleasure palaces and light heartedness. 
The chased gold scrolls asymmetrically wrap themselves over a core of agate, opening on a button in the enameled gold band around the two pieces of agate. The saying in the enamel is “Eloignez (sic) de vous, rien n’est agréable" (separated from you, nothing is agreeable) has a mistake in the French. This could be because the piece was made in England in the French taste and because French style of the Louis XV period  highlighted the pleasures of the rococo era and was considered the height of fashion in England. However, the word "eloignez" does not reveal whether the donor is masculine or feminine, which would have been necessary had the right form-“eloigné(e)” (the extra 'e' for a woman)- been used. Perhaps this was from a lover –and  one could say it was from a female friend if caught-or perhaps it was just fractured French.  The object inspires the imagination to think of liasons dangereuses or at least seductive liasons.

Museum Number: 
1994-129-3