Toilet Box

English, possibly Birmingham
about 1765
Artist Unknown, 19th century

Object Place: Europe, England


13 x 15.3 x 22.5 cm (5 1/8 x 6 x 8 7/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Enameled copper decorated in rose, with stamped gilt-metal mounts

On View

Charles C. Cunningham Gallery (Gallery 247)





The rectangular box with white ground has convex sides and a slightly domed cover. Each of the four sides and the cover are painted with a pastoral scene in rose monochrome within a reserve. The reserves are framed by raised white curvilinear scrolls, and the white ground surrounding the reserves on the sides, cover, and base is decorated with a raised diaper pattern. The panels are joined by stamped gilt-metal mounts, and the cover is hinged along the back edge. The scene on the cover shows a barefoot shepherdess with a spindle in her left hand. She converses with another woman, who is seated on a horse and gestures with her left hand. A donkey and a cow stand before the conversing couple, and another cow stands behind the horse. This central grouping is framed by landscape elements. In the foreground are rocks and bushes; to the left stands a sparsely foliaged tree, and to the right is an outcrop of jagged rock. Behind these rocks is a hillock from which grows a tree, and in the distance are buildings in the neoclassical style. The front panel depicts a shepherdess riding a donkey. To her right, a shepherd guides three sheep over some rocks. Another sheep stands to the right below the donkey’s head. In the right foreground is an outcrop of large rocks. In the left foreground is the end of a stone wall, and beyond it are three arches and a building in ruins. In the right background is a cluster of towers. On the rear panel a barefoot shepherdess wearing a long dress and holding a basket tends a flock of goats and sheep. A goat lies in the left foreground near some grass and rocks. The ruins of a stone building are in the left background, and to the right a group of buildings can be seen in the distance at the foot of some hills. To the right a river extends into the distance, where a fawn can be seen on the bank. The proper right side of the box shows a barefoot herder seated on the edge of a rocky promontory with one leg tucked under him. He is dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and vest with knee-breeches and a hat. He turns toward a dog seated next to him, presenting his back to the viewer. Behind the dog and to the right of the tree is a long-horned goat. The left background is occupied by some buildings and trees on a rocky hill. On the proper left side of the box a peasant wearing a hat drives a donkey heavily laden with cloth covered baskets up a hill toward the viewer. The scene is framed by a partially dead tree rising from some rocks. In the distance is a farmhouse. The concave base is covered by the raised trellis pattern except at the center, which is occupied by an asymmetrical cartouche formed of elements similar to those framing the narrative reserves on the sides and cover. Within this cartouche the same diaper trellis pattern is repeated on a smaller scale. The interior is enameled in white.


New York. 1957, Rita and Frits Markus; 1983, gift of Rita and Frits Markus to the MFA.

Credit Line

Gift of Rita and Frits Markus