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Thomas Johnson Trompe l'oeil Creel-Form Matchsafe or Vesta Case, London, 1882/83

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An exceptional example of trompe l'oeil work, this delightful matchsafe is in the form of a creel, or wicker fish basket. Most surprisingly, the lid opens to a miniature intaglio reverse painting on glass of two trout laying on grass - as if it were a true creel with fish inside. The quality of this reverse painted scene is striking.

Under the reverse painted trout is a compartment for matches, and the underside of the silver holding the painted glass is scored to be the match strike. Outside, the box is beautifully chased to resemble wicker, and the interior silver is gilded. Both the lid and faux trout compartment separator fit tightly as would be expected of a box of this quality.

Specializing in high-quality novelty silver and gold, Johnson ran an excellent shop in London. This matchsafe is a beautiful example of his shop's best work. It measures 2.125 inches long, 1.75 inches deep, 1.25 inches tall, and weighs 3 troy ounces, glass inclusive. It is in excellent antique condition.