Antique French Napoleon III era games box by Paul Sormani. The box is inlaid on the lid and sides with rosewood and palisander marquetry, with tulipwood and boxwood accents. Further inlaid with brass stringing and brass bound edges. The lock plate is signed P. SORMANI 10 rue Charlot, Paris. Opening to reveal a rich mahogany interior with brass inlays. Fitted with four removable trays and a center tray for dice and two vacant compartments for playing cards. The trays and compartments are also edged in thin brass inlay. Containing a total of 73 mother of pearl gaming chips, including 32 rectangular game tokens, 31 round tokens and 10 square tokens; the various shapes representing different monetary values. This finely detailed piece boasts the craftsmanship of the master Sormani. An exquisite collector's piece in good antique condition. No lacks to the veneers and brass. There is a crack to the interior bottom, this is hidden when the trays are in place. Retains a working lock and key. Box measures 13 5/8" length x 10 1/2" wide x 3 1/4" height.
About the Maker: Paul Sormani (1817-1877) was one the most renown French cabinetmakers of the 19th century. Born in Venice, Sormani trained as a cabinetmaker. In the mid 1800's, he moved to Paris and opened his first shop in 1847. He specialized in making fine “meubles de luxe”, (deluxe furniture) in the style of Louis XV and Louis XVI. Paul Sormani rose to prominence through the patronage of Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon III. His work was described in the 1867 Exposition Universelle catalogue as “toute sa production revele une qualite d’execution de tout premier ordre”. Sormani exhibited in Paris in 1849, 1855, 1862, 1867, 1878 and 1900, and in London in 1862, winning numerous medals. Amongst the items Sormani exhibited at the 1900 Exposition Universelle were a Louis XV style bureau and a Louis XVI style commode both based on originals held in the Jones Collection at the South Kensington Museum. It can be difficult to date Sormani's work, as the firm was in production for nearly ninety years. However, when Paul Sormani died in 1877, his wife and son took over the business and from this date onwards pieces are normally signed 'Veuve Sormani & Fils'.