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.
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.
And it even came with a little oil cup that clips onto the palette. Isn’t that the sweetest thing?
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?”
The adjustable arm is still in working order to prop open the lid and use it as a travel easel…
And the brass tag on the inside of the lid clearly labels the piece as coming from Paris…
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…
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.