Lockdown posting – can you help!?

Who gave this Child and Child pill box to whom?
Something to amuse everyone (and help me!) during the long days of lockdown.

I have bought a pill box that I think may be a gift from Burne Jones to Maria Zambaco (his ex lover) in 1894. What are your thoughts?

Child and Child (famous artistic jewellers of the period) retailed the box and were Burne Jones’ jewellers from whom he commissioned several items. Hearts were frequently central to his Child and Child commissions, though most likely this is a “standard” box. It is beautifully made and a good gauge.

The lid of the box is inscribed with a quote from Shakespeare’s Othello:

“Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash. ‘Tis something, nothing:
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands.
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed”.

This is from a passage all about the value of keeping one’s reputation (and the worthlessness of taking another’s reputation) the source of Jones’ and Zambaco’s ultimate crashing downfall in their relationship in c. 1870 when Jones changed his mind about leaving his wife for Maria, prompting Maria’s attempted suicide.

There is a french quote around the box’s edge is by Alfred de Musset (the, “French Oscar Wilde”).

les gens d’esprit ni les heureux ne sont jamais bien ne amoreux”

This translates as “people who are spirited (Maria?) or “happy/jocular (Burne Jones?) can’t be successful lovers”

So it is a very odd gift – a heart not of love but of finished love or unrequited love. That fits Burne Jones relationship with Zambaco perfectly but it does not preclude many other possible owners of the box of course.

However, I think the odd blue enamel on the lid is an M (for Maria) designed within Greek architecture – Zambaco was a French speaking Greek. It also has some resemblance to the backdrop of Jones famous painting of his love affair “Love among the ruins”. In 1894 he repeated that painting in oil.

Finally there were letters between Jones and Zambaco sold at Dreweatts in 2016 (March 17, lot 104) which showed Jones was still writing to the Zambaco family as a friend and passing them small gifts, at least as late as 1888. So a gift in 1894, even 20+ years after their affair ended, is plausible.

So please let me know all your thoughts
Price: Not for sale – research

Maker:  Child and Child

Designer:  Unknown

Date: 1894

Marks: C&C, London, T, sunflower

Material: Sterling Silver, enamel

Condition: Excellent

Size: 5.0 cm width, height 2.0 cm

Weight: 1.9 oz,  52 grams

SKU: A234-1 Categories: ,

Additional information




Sterling silver

Price range

Not currently available