Necessaire thumbnail 1
Necessaire thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
Not currently on display at the V&A
On short term loan out for exhibition

Necessaire

ca. 1770 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

In the 18th century, an emerging class of rich citizens used their acquired wealth to indulge a passion for beautiful objects named objects of vertu, a term likely borrowed from the Italian word 'virtuoso'. The jeweller and goldsmith James Cox was celebrated for his sumptuous objets de vertu, particularly those with automaton and watch movements. He bought his watch and clock movements from other craftsmen. The quality of craftsmanship on this piece, as well as other similar objects by Cox, seems to suggest that other elements may have been outsourced. His fame brought fruitful trade with the Imperial family of China, and some of his pieces can be found in the Forbidden City in Beijing today.

Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde formed one of the world's great decorative art collections, including silver, mosaics, enamelled portrait miniatures and gold boxes. Arthur Gilbert donated his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996.


Object details
Object type
Parts
This object consists of 13 parts.

  • Necessaire
  • Tweezers
  • Toothpick
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Penknife
  • Tablet
  • Drawer
  • Key
  • Key
  • Key
  • Finial
  • Fragment
Materials and techniques
Gold-mounted agate, set with pearls and paste gems, clockwork mechanism and carillon.
Brief description
Gold-mounted agate necessaire, set with pearls and paste gems, clockwork mechanism and carillon, London, ca. 1770, by James Cox.
Physical description
A jewelled, gold-mounted agate musical necessaire and watch with a seven-bell carillon. The lower carcass is modelled as a chest of drawers with scroll-and-mask feet and festooned volutes at each corner all supported by elephants. The upper drawers set with pearl and green stone handles are surmounted by four vases with "tremblant" paste-set butterflies. The upper carcass, also supported on four elephants, consists of eight agate panels mounted in a gold cagework of scrolls and foliage, the whole front opening as a drawer, containing a pair of tweezers, a combined ear- and toothpick, scissors, a pencil, a penknife, and tablets. The pyramidical cover is surmounted by a watch supported by two putti, the dial with Roman numerals for the hours and Arabic numerals for the minutes and gold hands. The entire structure surmounted by a paste-set peacock finial.
Marks and inscriptions
  • No marks
  • Signed 'James Cox' on the watch dial
Credit line
The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Object history
Provenance: H. Blairman and Sons, London. Partridge, London.
Subjects depicted
Summary
In the 18th century, an emerging class of rich citizens used their acquired wealth to indulge a passion for beautiful objects named objects of vertu, a term likely borrowed from the Italian word 'virtuoso'. The jeweller and goldsmith James Cox was celebrated for his sumptuous objets de vertu, particularly those with automaton and watch movements. He bought his watch and clock movements from other craftsmen. The quality of craftsmanship on this piece, as well as other similar objects by Cox, seems to suggest that other elements may have been outsourced. His fame brought fruitful trade with the Imperial family of China, and some of his pieces can be found in the Forbidden City in Beijing today.



Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde formed one of the world's great decorative art collections, including silver, mosaics, enamelled portrait miniatures and gold boxes. Arthur Gilbert donated his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996.
Bibliographic references
  • Le Corbeiller, Clare. 'James Cox: a biographical review'. Burlington Magazine. June 1970, vol. 112, fig. 7, p. 356.
  • Truman, Charles.The Gilbert collection of gold boxes, Vol. I. Los Angeles (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) 1991, cat. no. 106, pp. 309-10. ISBN.0875871623
  • Minter, Alice et al. Masterpieces in Miniature: Treasures from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection. London: V&A Publishing, 2021, p.60, cat.36
Other numbers
  • GB 129
  • SG 189 - Arthur Gilbert Number
Collection
Accession number
LOAN:GILBERT.35:1 to 13-2008

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Record createdJune 26, 2008
Record URL
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