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Chatelaine

Chatelaine

  • Place of origin:

    West Midlands (made)

  • Date:

    1765-1775 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted enamel on copper, with gilt-metal mounts and attachments

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Myles Burton Kennedy, Esq.

  • Museum number:

    C.492:1 to 7-1914

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118; The Wolfson Gallery, case 1 []

Object Type
This type of waist-hung ornament is commonly called a chatelaine, but this term was adopted only in the early 19th century. It refers to a medieval châtelaine, or lady of the castle, and by extension, her bunch of keys and other useful items. The 18th-century name for this item was 'equipage', and its main component was normally an étui (a container for small tools), or sometimes a watch.

Ownership & Use
The main element of this chatelaine is an étui, a container fitted with a penknife, a bodkin for threading ribbon through lace, a combined nail-file and tweezers, and a combined toothpick and earscoop. Because these items are a selection from a fairly standard list of étui equipment, it is possible to tell from the shape of the remaining empty slot that this étui once also contained a hinged pair of ivory memorandum leaves (these could be written on, using a pencil). The small egg-shaped screw-top containers known as breloques may have been for small breath-freshening sweets. Chatelaines were not just attractive ornaments for ladies; their contents were useful too, and not unlike today's manicure sets, sewing kits and Swiss army knives.

Materials & Making
Mid-18th-century chatelaines were usually made from gilt metal, an alloy such as pinchbeck, or silver and gold. They were often ornately embossed with Rococo scrolling and sometimes had mother of pearl or agate panels. Enamelled chatelaines are comparatively unusual. They were quite complex to assemble, and few West Midlands workshops, except enterprises as large as that of Boulton & Fothergill of Birmingham, were capable of producing all the components, including mounts and enamelled parts. This is therefore the product of a larger factory, or if from a small workshop, a composite of parts bought in.

Physical description

CHATELAINE (or set of accessories)

Place of Origin

West Midlands (made)

Date

1765-1775 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Painted enamel on copper, with gilt-metal mounts and attachments

Dimensions

Depth: 22.86 cm

Object history note

Made in the West Midlands

Descriptive line

E

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Labels and date

British Galleries:
The enamel on this chatelaine uses decorative motifs from contemporary German porcelain but its mounts are typical of the West Midlands. They were made from one of the many varieties of brass-like base metals imitating gold. The most famous was 'pinchbeck', a brass-like alloy made to imitate gold, that was invented by Christopher Pinchbeck. [27/03/2003]

Categories

Personal accessories

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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