Jason Clarke Antiques

Mid Victorian Miniature Water Colour Paint Box by AW Faber, Germany


For sale a rare mid Victorian miniature watercolour paint box by AW Faber, Germany

Contained in a sturdy German silver case, the set is comprised of a miniature hinged mixing pallet which opens out to reveal eight compartments retaining their original watercolour paint cakes and a separate compartment for storing brush-heads.

The lid also retains its original paper label for the famous art supplier, AW Faber of London, Paris & New York. Produced for the French market, it states that it contains “couleurs moites extra fines” (extra fine water colours) and further provides the various colours included.

Carmin(e) (a deep red)

Vermilion (an orange-red colour)

Ocre Jaune (yellow ochre)

Jaune Citron (Lemon Yellow)

Brun de Van Dyck (Van Dyke Brown)

Vert Emeraude (Emerald Green)

Bleu de Prusse (Prussian Blue)

Bleu de Colbalt (Cobalt Blue)

This early set has of course been used, evidenced by the wear present on the paint cakes and from the paint mixing marks on the pallet and inner lid. Given the medium involved it is likely that this would clean if required but I have preferred to keep the evidence of its use intact. A superb example which is complete with a thumb ring to the base, allowing the travelling artist a means of stabilising the pallet for use in the field.

Miniature paint boxes such as these, began to be produced in the mid Nineteenth Century when some of the larger manufacturers (or colourmen) began to to develop into some of the most well-known brands that still exist to this day. Winsor & Newton, Reeves and Rowney all produced similar boxes for the new Victorian desire for painting “en plein air”.

The equally famous German company of AW Faber has a long history from its formation in 1761 by Kasper Faber in Nuremberg, Germany. A carpenter by trade, Faber began experiments with various mixtures of graphite to develop a pencil lead that was both strong and durable.

His son, Anton Wilhelm Faber was responsible for first creating this familiar brand name. Under his stewardship, AW Faber moved into the premises where it remains to this day and continued to grow through the next generation. His grandson is perhaps the most identifiable character in the company’s history. Lothar Faber was the eldest of three children born to Georg Leonhard Faber and following his death in 1838, Lothar took control of the organisation and began a programme of modernisation which included securing of raw materials, establishing worldwide trading networks and also branding his products to avoid customers buying cheap replicas.

It should be recognised that the younger brothers, Johan and Eberhard Faber also entered the industry but with the eldest son taking the main family business, his brother Johan created the company of, “Johan A Faber” in Nuremberg which became noted for its fountain pen production and Eberhard moved to the US to run the American subsidiary of Faber which opened in 1849.

Two years later, AW Faber opened a branch in London; Paris followed in 1855 and Vienna and St Petersburgh in the early 1870’s. By this time, Lothar’s son William was preparing to take control of the family business until his untimely death from a heart attack at the age of 42. Both of his sons had also died during childhood which left Wilhelm’s wife Ottilie in sole charge. In 1898 she married the Count Alexander Zu Castell and the new century was brought in under the more familiar guise of Faber-Castell.

Alexander led the company through the period of the Great war and upon his death in 1929, his son Roland managed the transition of AW Faber and Johan Faber into a family limited partnership under the Faber-Castell name with the focus remaining on both pencils and fountain pens. They also took control of their main competitor, Osmia in 1935.

Today, it remains a hugely recognisable brand which continues to supply products all over the globe.

Dating this fascinating paint box is greatly aided by the branch opening dates of their US, London and Paris branches which are mentioned on the paper label, the latest being Paris in 1855. If referenced against the company’s typeface which is extant on contemporary advertising material, it is reasonable to assume that this piece was manufactured during the 1860’s, the paper label also makes no mention of the Vienna and St Petersburgh premises which opened in 1872 & 1874 respectively, so it suggests a production date of between 1855 and 1872.

A very early and very complete example of its type.

Circa 1865

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