"Battersea" or "Bilston" boxes became a popular sentimental gift in mid-18th century London, where the process of transfer printing had just been invented, and enabled manufacturers to embed a crisp and detailed image onto a porcelain surface. (They're also sometimes referred to as patch boxes, because aristocratic women would use them to stash their "patches"—small circles of black fabric that we know as beauty marks.) From the mid-1700s until the very end of the Georgian era, they were created en masse by the enamel-workers of Bilston, England, but at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, the public lost interest, and they all but vanished from the market. (The craft was re-invigorated by the collector Susan Benjamin beginning in the 1950s.)
This tiny, egg-shaped box is about 1" deep, measuring 1 3/4" long at the widest point and about 1 1/4" from top to bottom. Two small cracks snake across the top of the printed ceramic plate, which is slightly loose in its brass frame—a natural effect of its age. The enameled copper base—chipped in a few places—is a lovely shade of lavender, a color associated with mourning. That, along with the slightly funereal motif printed on the box, leads me to speculate that this could have been a gift commemorating a loved one's passing.
To see this piece in person, visit our shop in Nolita, New York.