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Spectacle case and spectacles

Spectacle case and spectacles

  • Place of origin:

    France (probably, made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Museum number:

    W.5 to B-1970

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This spectacle case may have belonged to James II, although the folding spectacles most certainly were made several decades after his death in exile in 1701. The painted mother-of-pearl case is of the very highest quality - certainly fit for a king's use - and was probably made in France. Folding spectacles are mentioned in the advertisement of a French maker in 1745. They are described as 'in the English style'. It is likely that folding spectacles had been made for a decade or so before 1745, but there is no evidence that they were made during the lifetime of James II.

A letter that accompanied the spectacles, written at the end of the 18th century, describes in detail how the case passed by gift from James's son, the Old Pretender, through several hands, until it came into the possession of a Mr Walker in 1770. By that time it must have been revered as a Jacobite relic by those who favoured the Stuart claim to the English throne.

Physical description

Spectacle case of painted and gilded mother-of-pearl, containing a later pair of folding spectacles, of tortoise-shell and silver

Place of Origin

France (probably, made)




Height: 5.3 cm Spectacle case, Width: 8.5 cm Spectacle case, Depth: 1.2 cm Spectacle case, Height: 4.6 cm Spectacle (opened), Width: 8.9 cm Spectacle (opened), Depth: 0.4 cm Spectacle (opened), Height: 5.8 cm Spectacle (folded), Width: 3.9 cm Spectacle (folded), Depth: 0.9 cm Spectacle (folded)

Object history note

Spectacles in Case, purchased for £125 on 17 December 1969 from R M Pigot Esq, Pantiles, Great Hautbois, Norwich. RF 69/3498

Descriptive line

Spectacle case of painted and gilded mother-of-pearl, ca. 1685-1688, containing a later pair of tortoise-shell and silver folding spectacles of 1700-1725, probably made in France

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Macgregor, Ronald J.S.'Opthalmic Antiques. Newlsetter of the Ophthalmic Antiques International Collectors Club'. Number 66. January 1999, pp.4-6. Copy in files of Furniture, Textiles and Fashion Department
David Forsyth (ed.), Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites (catalogue to the exhibition at National Museum of Scotland, 23 June to 12 November 2017), Edinburgh 2017, cat. 44, pp.203-204

Labels and date

ENGLISH; about 1685-8
Painted mother-of-pearl

They are reputed to have belonged to James II (1685-8) [pre October 2000]

Production Note

The case may date from as early as ca. 1685 but the folding spectacles are unlikely to be any earlier than 1735-40


Eyewear; Accessories; Europeana Fashion Project


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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