It's tiny, just 3.5 cm , and disappears in the palm of my hand. Maybe it was better suited to the hands of the 18th century lady to whom it was first gifted, by her rococo beau....
It is a beautiful white French porcelain, and could be a couple of factories, Saint Cloud or Mennecy to name two. I settled on Saint Cloud.
This view of the lid shows a prime reason for the attribution to Saint Cloud: the distinct moulded flowers.
It has silver mounts, which is a great help in dating, as long as they are original. They have all the indications of a period piece of silverwork, including a microscopic hallmark.
Luckily I have a proscope electric microscope: here is the mark magnified x50: it is a rooster head.
This dates it nicely to 1750-56, and places it in Paris, which is typical of these pieces. They were constructed by silversmiths, who purchased the various components from the porcelain manufacturers.
The teabowl here is a 1730's piece of Saint Cloud in our reference collection. Alongside it, the Chinaman is quite a happy match. Mennecy, the other option, has a much more creamy appearance.
Here is the box in context: the European fascination with the Orient. His friends here are Magot, or Pagod figures, early Vienna in the background, and of uncertain origin in the foreground. They are based on Chinese prototypes from the 17th century, and appear in almost all the creations of the early European porcelain factories, including Chelsea and Bow in England, Meissen in Germany, and Chantilly & Saint Cloud in France.
This unusually small Saint Cloud box will be part of the Moorabool Antique Galleries 2011 exhibition & sale, to be held in Geelong in April 2011.