Silver and tortoiseshell
1.4 x 8.3 x 6.5 cm (9/16 x 3 1/4 x 2 9/16 in.), 2 oz., 1 dwt. (64 gm)
The lid of this snuffbox bears a portrait of Elihu Yale on one side and his family crest on the other. Signed “J. OB.,” it was made by the fashionable London craftsman John Obrisset and probably commissioned by Yale himself. It may be the very same snuffbox pictured on the table near Yale in the two oil portraits of him displayed nearby. Like the portraits, this small luxury object reflects both Yale’s social ambitions and Britain’s growing involvement in overseas trade. Yale’s profile pose, voluminous wig, and fine dress mark him as a man of status, wealth, and taste. The materials from which this box was made and the substance it would have contained were imported into Britain through Atlantic trade routes: tortoiseshell from Africa and the Caribbean; and silver and snuff (a finely powdered tobacco) from the Americas.
Yale University Art Gallery; Gift of Ezra Stiles