Only Online Auction

Geneva, Apr 07, 2021

LOT 319

Message case, so-called "billet doux"; "vernis Martin"

CHF 1,500 - 2,000

EUR 1,400 - 1,850 / USD 1,650 - 2,200 / HKD 12,600 - 16,800

Message case, so-called "billet doux", made of European lacquer, so-called "vernis Martin", decorated with an altar of Love and garlands; gilt metal ferrules; the whole mounted on a wooden core.

The object is composed of three parts forming two compartments; one of them (the smaller one) contains a bottle of perfume or swoon salts, in cut rock crystal, with a gilt metal cap.

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Grading System
Grade: AA

Very good

Brand Unsigned, France

Model Billet Doux

Year circa 1760-1780

Diameter 21.56 mm.

Length 14.5 cm.


In line with the Sino-Japanese taste of the second half of the 18th century, the vernis Martin is a type (or a number of types) of imitation lacquer. named after the 18th century French Martin brothers: Guillaume (died 1749), Etienne-Simon, Robert and Julien. They ran a leading factory from between about 1730 and 1770, and were vernisseurs du roi ("varnishers to the king").

These held hand-written billet-doux (literally 'sweet notes') or love letters, correspondence between persons, hand delivered by couriers.


The purchase price payable by a buyer will be the sum of the final bid price plus the buyer’s premium, together with any applicable sales or compensating use tax. In addition to the hammer price, the buyer’s premium is payable as follows: 25% of the hammer price on each lot.

Important notice – Special conditions Please look carefully at all the photos as they are an integral part of the description. Any defect not mentioned in the descriptions but visible on the photos will be considered as described and cannot lead to any claim. The dimensions are given as an indication and may slightly differ from the measures mentioned by the manufacturers especially for contemporary watches. The photos are not retouched. Colors may differ from reality. For timepieces, we guarantee neither the functioning nor the precision of the movement, nor the water-resistance of the case. In addition, please note that movements, parts of mechanisms or cases may be incomplete. The lots are sold “as is”, described to the best of our knowledge and cannot be returned. Once the online bid is placed by the bidder, it cannot be cancelled.