One of the most stunning pieces in our 2014 Recent Acquisitions Exhibition is this French Louis XV perfume casket.
Known as a nécessaire à parfum, the deep blue enamel ground is finely painted with chinoiseries scenes in gold including pagodas, boats, and oriental figures, the whole encased in elaborate silver-gilt rococo scroll mounts. Opening it up reveals the interior fitted with four original faceted perfume bottles with gilt stoppers. The piece bears no hallmarks, but dates to Circa 1760.
There have been several of these lovely pieces sold in the past few decades, with wildly differing descriptions: English, Ormolu, 19th century…. and several different colours including a muddy green, a red, (but no other deep blue like this example). The differing opinions on these pieces is interesting. The 2010 example from the Paris rooms of Kohn states that these were …”English-made, imported by Paris merchants and sold to wealthy clients:. The reason for this statement is based on “…. similar objects… with London hallmarks of the 18th century”. However, the necessaire being offered did not have hallmarks (estimate €12 – 15,000 !) and none of the other examples that have been documented do either. (doesn’t make sense: catalogued as gilt copper repousse, it then refers to silver hallmarks on similar ‘English’ pieces)
The other mis-description with these pieces is calling the mounts ormolu. This term applies to the use of a bronze base with gold fired surface. Another variation is gilt-copper. My test of our example shows that it is neither, but rather silver-gilt. The test…. under strong magnification, a sharp blade was run over the inside corner of an inconspicuous part of the base: the filings that came off were very bright & shiny, and under a UV light indicated they were silver in nature, not bronze.
These pieces are of the French taste of the mid-18th century, echoing in miniature the superb quality court furniture which incorporated Chinese or Japanese lacquer panels mounted with ormolu. There is no reason to believe that something so essentially French would not have been made in a French workshop, for French clients. The materials, style, more importantly, the glass inserts are all very much in keeping with the French craftmanship of the mid-18th century. We therefore guarantee that this example is of the time of Louis XV, circa 1760.
This stunning item will be a part of our 2014 Recent Acquisitions Exhibition, opening in Geelong on April 12th 2014.
It’s details are: #1017019 8.5cm high $7800 AUD