the antique french paint box

Marian ParsonsArt, Artistic Endeavors, Favorite Things, Oil Painting48 Comments

One of the things on my shopping wish-list when I went to Europe last fall was a paint box.  Most of the items on my list were, in fact, art supplies…  a silver ink well, a blotter, a tabletop easel, a fountain pen.  As you may have noticed, antique and vintage art supplies have been a favorite of mine lately!  I was really hoping to find a wooden artist’s pochade box in France or Italy, and I did come across a couple, but just not the right one.  I almost talked myself into buying one particular box, but it really was too new.  It didn’t have the soul and patina I wanted.

So, I’ve been browsing Etsy and eBay now and then for antique and vintage pochade boxes.  I’ve gotten so far as to put one in my cart only to abandon it.  After all of my years of buying and selling antiques, I’ve learned to wait.  Just be patient and wait.

And I finally found the perfect one a couple of weeks ago.  I didn’t hesitate or question or let it sit in my cart overnight while I pondered the purchase.  I put it in the cart and checked out immediately.

Not only was it perfect, but it was a great price – $160 with free shipping from France.  There are boxes for sale that are newer and not anywhere near as beautiful that are double that price plus shipping.

In addition to the good price, it had everything I was looking for…the age, the patina, the details.  It was even made in Paris and it was clearly used by a real artist.  I make this distinction because some vintage and antique art supplies that surface don’t look like that.  I’ll explain what I mean when I show you the palette.  Yes, it came with a palette, too!

Here is the beautiful antique french paint box I purchased from a lovely woman in France named Marie…

The warmth of the wood and the brass hardware caught my attention immediately!  So many boxes that I found had plastic handles or broken handles or ones that just weren’t pretty.

I love that the brass is shinier where fingers have wrapped around it hundreds of times…

And the inside of the box has the most perfect paint-splattered patina.  It’s just as a well-used and well-loved art box should be.

antique box miss mustard seed

I was excited about the entire box, but the palette is what stuck out to me.  The colors are arranged on the palette in a traditional way and very similar to the way I arrange mine.  (My top row is reversed with Burnt Sienna on the left, followed by yellows, and then white.)  So many palettes that I see on Etsy or eBay have piles of paint all over them.  Some artists use palettes that way, but most will leave some area for mixing in the middle and keep the colors somewhat organized around the edge.  This palette is probably just as it was the last time the artist used it.

Under the palette is the original zinc liner with dividers for brushes, paint tubes, and bottles of oil and solvents.

antique french paint box miss mustard seed

And it even came with a little oil cup that clips onto the palette.  Isn’t that the sweetest thing?

antique french paint box miss mustard seed

When I showed it to Jeff, he could see how much I loved it, so he carefully asked, “Is the paint all over it a part of the appeal?”


antique french paint box miss mustard seed

The adjustable arm is still in working order to prop open the lid and use it as a travel easel…

antique box miss mustard seed

antique french paint box miss mustard seed

And the brass tag on the inside of the lid clearly labels the piece as coming from Paris…

antique box miss mustard seed

And, one of the coolest things, is that this box looks almost identical to the one Auguste Renoir used!  I was searching around the internet to see if I could find out more about this box and I stumbled across a picture of his paintbox.  His box is circa 1900, so my box is likely from the same time period.  Here is a picture of his box…

antique french paint box miss mustard seed

Look at the hardware and the arrangement of the metal dividers.  They are identical!

To some, it might look like a dirty old wooden box that once held paints.  To me, it is a work of art in and of itself and a treasure.

It was clearly well-used and well-cared for.  I wish I could see the art that was created by the artist or artists who used this box over the years.  This piece already has a long and rich story that is unknown to me, but now I get to be a part of that story.

It traveled across the ocean to spend its next chapter with me as I learn and grow as an artist…


If you’re curious to see what else was on my shopping list from last fall, check it out here.

the antique french paint box

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48 Comments on “the antique french paint box”

  1. Good things come to those who wait was one of my Grandmother’s great sayings. And it came true for you. It is a great looking piece; you must be so happy! Congrats on your find.

  2. Beautiful! Bet it still holds the aroma of paints, turpentine, maybe linseed oil? Was wondering what is the small metal container that has two lids? Thanks!

    1. Yes, it does! It was especially noticeable when I first opened it after it had been wrapped up for shipping. I believe that the metal container was for oil and terps, but it isn’t sealed or lidded, so they would’ve still had to be in bottles.

  3. Wow – how neat.

    Marian – you help us see the most beautiful things – I appreciate it very much, and love learning about history in art and travel on your blog. That is an amazing treasure you found. One can actually feel the good vibes by your description of it.

  4. You have such a great eye. And a way of making me long to possess treasures I never knew existed. Lovely.

  5. I do not paint but that box with all the glorious colors is a wonderful find. Seek and you shall find.

  6. Oh my gosh, it!s amazing!
    And it even has a little keyhole!
    This is truly a magical might even speak to you in french,

  7. How wonderful is that? to find a treasured piece of the past that connects at such a visual and emotional level. I’m sure you will enjoy it for years to come!

  8. The boxes are so similar, let’s just imagine that your new purchase was Auguste’s other paint box. The palette resembles colors in so many of his landscapes and I mean THE colors. And as for husbands, poor guys, this find is like scoring free super bowl tickets, an all expense paid hunting trip or a safari. Mine always asks if the paint should be peeling on a super, long sought after piece of furniture. Lol

  9. What a beauty! I love the patina and can only imagine all the places this box might have travelled and the paintings that were created because of it. It looks well used and well loved! You’re just the right person to carry it onward.

  10. What a treasure! I love every detail…beautiful, charming and has been well used and loved. Great find!

  11. I can just imagine all the paintings that have resulted from someone using this beautiful box…will you be using it to paint or for display? A real treasure.

  12. It sends a chill up my spine how this box (+ palette) and you were meant for each other. The previous artist would be thrilled you have it, enjoy

  13. I LOVE that you found this treasure. It is beautiful, and my hubby would absolutely never understand the appeal of the paint residue either!

  14. Love the treasure you found!! My mom took painting classes (oil and watercolors) well into her adult yrs. She became quite good at her art. When she passed 5 yrs. ago at age of 95, I got her easel and paint box, etc. I think of her everyday, because at the landing of my staircase is her grandfather clock and on the wall is a picture she painted yrs ago of my childhood home and on the other wall, is one she painted of the home my husband and I raised our 3 children in. Wonderful!

  15. My paternal grandfather was a house painter by trade and an oil painter by hobby. We lived near my grandparents when I was very young and I loved watching him paint. I’ve always loved the smell of linseed oil and turpentine because of those early experiences. His palette looked just like the one in your box. What a treasure you’ve found!

  16. Your story is just Marvelous. You bring such joy to so many people with them, from all the wonderful comments. Thank you for being who you are and sharing your life stories with us. 🙂

  17. I love that you truly appreciate the beauty vintage anything-
    In this case you really appreciate the wear and tear of the weathered box-
    Very fun to read, and your pictures are always lovely.

  18. Oh it would’ve been perfect if the seller wrote you a note of the paint box background. I love the hardware. Enjoy . ❤

  19. My father was an artist too. I only wish I had his box as like yours well used and loved. make sure your boys know the provanace (sp?) of your box.

  20. I recently discovered a Meeden pochade box in my house, brand new. You’ve inspired me to beat it up and give it some character. Of course, it won’t be French or antique but it will be mine and I will begin with me. I am going to “age” it simply because I think it will be interesting and nice to look at.

  21. How exciting! Did the seller Marie tell you how or where she got the paint box or know anything of its history? Just curious!

  22. What an extraordinary find! To imagine who painted from that pallet and the emotions the artist felt. That’s a gift indeed!

  23. It’s such a joy when you find exactly what you’re looking for. I am, sadly, not a painter but I appreciate the beauty of this box and so enjoyed hearing your story. Your husband’s question made me smile. He obviously doesn’t understand what the appeal about it is but he was sensitive to your feelings about it. How lovely.

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