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Magnificent box for Nathan Mayer Rothschild

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UPDATE: Following research by the College of Arms, it has been discovered that this stunning box and counters was made for NATHAN MAYER ROTHSCHILD. This has obviously been a very exciting discovery - for numerous reasons. First - and this was why the arms proved so difficult to identify- the arms shown on box and counters were granted on 26 February 1818. They show the orignal grant of arms with the lion passant holding five arrows to represent the five sons of Mayer-Amschal Rothschild who were sent off by their father to various fanancial centres in Europe to establish the foundations of the Rothschild empire. These arms were however only used for a short length of time: Nathan Mayer Rothschild was made a Baron in Austria on 29 September 1822 and he was granted a new coat of arms there which was quickly adopted. Nathan's son Lionel obtained a Royal Licence in 1838 to use these arms in Britain. 

Thanks to the Windsor Herald for research work.

This attribution explains why the box and counters are of such exceptional quality; the counters were matched only by sets made for royalty and in particular the almost identical set made for King Charles IV of Spain (see related article).  


If you have looked at the article about the box and counters for Charles IV King of Spain, then you will recognise much about these counters. The lacquer box itself if quite different, however: it resembles at first sight a games box made for the English market. But several things make it stand out. First of all the size: it is much larger than the standard box. They trays are larger, as are the interior boxes. The quality of the gilding is exceptional, as is the condition. The Pope Joan trays for instance are stacked separated by very old tissue paper. The artwork is superb. The gilding on the trays is of a richness and depth that exceed any quality I have seen before. And the condition is quite amazing. This box and counters have been treasured and preserved in original condition. And finally - something I have never before seen on a games box- instead of the usual wooden feet, it has ivory ones.

That is the box. Inside it gets even more special. First of all there are two very rare and special VOLTERETE (a very popular card game at the time) scoring plans. These measure an amazing 3 1/4 inches diameter. Both are deep-carved and one is fretted as well. There is just one similar in the box made for the King of Spain, so this was a truly special commission. And then the counters: these are in five different shapes, all deep-carved and made of very thick m-o-p. So thick in fact that many of them ( just like Charles IV counters)  have surface striations. And the set is very large indeed with a total of 168 counters including the two large rounds. There are 92 longs ( numbered to the reverse 1), 18 large ovals (5), 18 'squares' with canted corners (10), 18 rounds (20) and 20 'squares' (100).

The arms - repeated on all the counters and the two large rounds- are: a lion passant gardant holding in the paw five arrows and the crest is: from a crown pallisado a demi-lion rampant gardant holding in the paws five arrows (as in the arms). This set was clearly made for a very important family - and research continues to see if they can be found. 

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