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Bodkin case

Bodkin case

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1780 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Enamelled gold

  • Credit Line:

    Acquired in memory of Prof. G. M. Petersen

  • Museum number:

    M.7:1, 2-1998

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118a, case 6 []

Object Type
This case would usually be described as a needle or bodkin case, an elegant case in which a lady could keep her sewing and dressing implements. However, in the 1784 catalogue (p. 66) of Horace Walpole's collection at Strawberry Hill, his house at Twickenham, it is described as a 'tooth-pick case of gold, enamelled with cameos; a present from Lady Diana Beauclerc'.

Lady Diana Beauclerk was an amateur painter of considerable talent and a close friend of Horace Walpole. She was praised by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and she was the author of designs which were used in ceramics by Wedgwood. In 1775, Beauclerk executed seven drawings illustrating Walpole's tragedy in blank verse, 'The Mysterious Mother', which pleased him so much that he built an octagonal room for them at Strawberry Hill, which he called the Beauclerk Closet. Walpole expressed his enthusiasm for enamelling in 1759 at the end of a commission for an enamelled watch which he arranged for Sir Horace Mann: 'if anything a quarter so pretty was found in Herculaneum we should admire their enamellers more than their Scipios and Caesars'.

Design & Designing
From the late 1760s the taste for Neo-classical design favoured enamelling which imitated cameos. The white heads or figures stand out from the chocolate ground.

Physical description

Enamelled gold bodkin case with blue enamel ribbons and flowers framing four cameos on a chocolate ground.

Place of Origin

London (made)


ca. 1780 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Enamelled gold

Marks and inscriptions

'A present from Lady Diana Beauclerk to Sir Horace Walpole'


Height: 9.8 cm, Width: 1.5 cm

Object history note

Made in London
Given to Sir Horace Walpole by Lady Diana Beauclerk, a young lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte. The case was sold to Henry Farrer in 1838. On 17 June 1963 it was lot 268 in the sale by Sotheby's of objects owned by Sir A. Chester Beatty: bought by Hakim, a London dealer.

Walpole Exhibition, V&A RF.2008/527
Sterckshof Exhibition, RF.2010/400

Descriptive line

Enamelled gold bodkin case made in London, ca. 1780

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This case was a present to Walpole from his close friend Lady Diana Beauclerk, who may have commissioned it especially for him. Lady Diana was a talented amateur painter, whose designs were used by the ceramics manufacturer, Josiah Wedgwood. [27/03/2003]


Gold; Enamel




Personal accessories; Metalwork; British Galleries


Metalwork Collection

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