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A Victorian 'Balkan Sobranie Cigarettes' box, made of white glazed earthenware pottery and fully decorated on all sides with wonderful pictorial black transfer decoration.
Founded in 1879 by the Redstone family, Sobranie of London is one of the oldest cigarette manufacturers in the world and were suppliers to the Imperial Court of Russia, along with the Royal Courts of Great Britain, Spain, Romania and Greece.
Producing a secret blend of Yenidje tobacco, Sobranie cigarettes were handmade in the Russian tradition by several generations of the family and were considered the most premium available. Along with their royal connections, the firm also supplied the Officers Mess of the British military, Gentlemens' clubs and many notable historical figures like Oscar Wilde and Winston Churchill.
A hallmark of the company, the lidded ceramic boxes were often gifted and were even coveted as being rare when they were made. This original example has been preserved in immaculate condition, after more than 120 years it is undamaged and is as striking as ever.
The under-glaze transfer prints on the box are mirrored on each face, with the long sides showing a courting couple in a palatial scene and ends with 100 (the quantity of cigarettes) over tobacco leaves. The lid shows wagons of cigarettes loaded in the Balkan mountains, with two women in traditional Russian dress smoking next to sacks of tobacco. The pictorial is bordered by scrolling banners with typography that reads - 'The Balkan Sobranie Cigarettes, made of the Finest Yenidje Tobacco'.
Circa 1885 - 1900, these boxes were produced by S. Fielding & Co Ltd. - Stoke on Trent, a prolific pottery firm founded in 1878.