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Dressing case

Dressing case

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1770-1790 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Japanned and gilded wood, with lining of silk and metal-thread lace, with flasks and fittings in glass and silver

  • Museum number:

    W.18&A-K-1914

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This elegant box, with its luxurious equipment for the 'toilette', which prepared a fashionable French woman for the day, was both useful and a highly luxurious sign of status and wealth. The box, with its gilded ornament in the Chinoiserie style, imitated Asian lacquer, which had been sought-after in France from the late 17th century. It is lined with blue silk, the lid fitted with a mirror, and the bottles (for cosmetics) have tops of silver. These match the small silver tray, beaker and funnel, which would have been used by its owner to take a breakfast refreshment during the arduous task of having her hair dressed in an elaborate fashion and careful make-up applied. Friends and intimates often attended the ceremony of the 'toilette', entertaining the main player with gossip, while her maid attended to her appearance. The main silver pieces are engraved with a coat of arms within a lozenge (a diamond-shape). This shape indicates that the arms are those of an unmarried woman or a widow. Several families had arms close to those depicted and the original owner has not yet been securely identified.

Physical description

Dressing case of red-japanned wood, decorated with Chinoiseries in gold, the box lined with blue silk and fitted with facetted glass bottles and siilver cup, funnel and tray, these marked with Paris hallmarks and the arms of an unmarried woman.
An almost square box, with hinged lid, the exterior decorated with scarlet japanning with gilded chinoiserie decoration, the interior lined with pale blue silk. The lid carries a mirror on the underside and the box section is fitted with shaped compartments outlined with narrow silver lace, a loose silk cushion protecting the contents. The box contains four large, facetted glass bottles with silver stoppers, two small ones, a small silver tray with a fluted edge, a miniature funnel and a dosing cup. The tray and the cup are engraved with the arms of a woman (unidentified) and carry Parisian hallmarks. The arms have been described in France as 'Fasce d'argent et d'azur[de six pièces] a la bordure de gueules'. This translates into heraldic description in English 'Barry of six argent and azure with a bordure gules' [meaning: 'six silver and blue horizontal stripes with a red border'].

Place of Origin

Paris (made)

Date

1770-1790 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Japanned and gilded wood, with lining of silk and metal-thread lace, with flasks and fittings in glass and silver

Dimensions

Height: 12.5 cm closed, Height: 22 cm lid open, Width: cm 15.3, Depth: 14.8 cm

Object history note

The silver fitments of this dressing case carry Parisian hallmarks and the three major pieces are engraved with the arms of an unmarried girl or a woman (they are set within a lozenge). The arms are detailed in the description of the object above. J.B. Rietstap, Armorial général, précédé d'un dictionnaire des terms du blason, 1884-7; reprint from 1934, 2 vols, gives a number of families to whom these arms might apply: Dammartin of Burgundy0; Dio de Montpeyroux (or Montpeiroux) of France; Palatin de Dio de Montpeyroux of Bresse, Savoie, Burgundy, Orleans and Brittany); Parlo of Gerlderland; and Picquigny of Picardy. There are slight differences between the families. The coronet shown above the arms is that of a duke or a marquis.

It has been suggested that a possible owners might have been:
a member of the Dio de Montpeyroux family who was the Abbess of Port-Royal, Paris from 1769-1790. See Archives nationals de France (SÉRIE K - MONUMENTS HISTORIQUE; TITLE V-DIGNITÉS ET OFFICE; k 654.14 à 20 BIS. Abbayes). Also: 18 Brevet de nomination par le Roi de Marie-Jeanne-Florimonde de Dio de Montpeyroux, à l'abbaye de Port-Royal de Paris, 14 mai 1769.
Anne Josèphe Bonnier de la Mosson, duchesse de Picquigny, then duchesse de Chaulnes (1718-1782). In 1734 she married Michel Ferdinand d'Albert d'Ailly duc de Picquigny, duc de Chaulnes (who died in 1769). After being widowed, she married Henri de Giac, called the marquis de Giac.
Marie Paule Angelique d'Albert de Luynes, duchesse de Picquigny, then in 1769 duchesse de Chaulnes (07/09/1744 -?). She was married to Marie Joseph Louis d'Albert d'Ailly, son of Michel Ferdinand, Vidame d'Amiens, then duc de Pecquigny, then in 1769 duc de Chaulnes (1741-1793).
These two women were Dames du Palais for Marie Leszcynska and then for Marie Antoinette.
None of this has been proven but is recorded here to aid subsequent research.

Historical context note

Such dressing cases would have been used for cosmetics during the toilet or dressing, and the small tray and cup would have been used for the refreshments which were often taken in the course of such lengthy preparations for a day at court.

Descriptive line

Dressing case of red-japanned wood, decorated with Chinoiseries in gold, the box lined with blue silk and fitted with facetted glass bottles and siilver cup, funnel and tray, these marked with Paris hallmarks and the arms of an unmarried woman.

Materials

Wood; Silk; Glass; Silver

Techniques

Cabinet-making; Japanning

Categories

Containers; Make-up

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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