ANTIQUE BOXES
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Antique Boxes in English Society

1760 -1900

by ANTIGONE

VANITY OR DRESSING BOXES

VANITY OR DRESSING BOXES


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old page:  this page has been updated. if you want the old page:Antique Dressing Boxes © 1999 Antigone Clarke and Joseph O'Kelly

Introduction

The dressing box was and still is the ultimate life-style accessory. Not only did it contain in a compact and elegant manner items necessary for personal grooming, the very quality and aesthetic standard of both the box and its contents conferred on the owner the stamp of elegance and distinction. 

This became increasingly important as ladies of the higher social echelons made long house visits to the stately homes of their friends.

The vanity box would command pride of place on the dressing table, its contents sometimes spread around it for the hostess and other guests to glimpse a hint of the quality of its owner. Far from being a mere container of bottles, it became an exposition of the social status, style ranking and of course wealth.

The need for personal accessories to be kept in easily portable boxes, which gave rise to the writing box, also gave rise to the Vanity box or dressing box.

Most vanity boxes made in the late 18th century were made for men. 

Thomas Sheraton has an illustration for a lady's travelling box in his 'The Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book' dated 1792 which shows a compact multipurpose box with a large section devoted to personal grooming containers. This is reproduced at the beginning of the writing box article. However, very few such boxes were ever made as very few ladies ventured too far from home at that date.

 

http://hygra.com/uk/jb2/jb218
JB218:  Exceptional Early 19th century brass inlaid and edged figured rosewood dressing box,  with engraved and pierced silver by George Knight of London, the box having inset brass carrying handles,  and foliate brass inlay to the top and front, and a separately locked drawer fitted for jewelry. Inside the box there is a liftout tray with silver toped cut crystal boxes three of which are elaborately pierced and engraved ; another is an inkwell. There is also a small engine turned cosmetic jar of the same period but of French manufacture.  There is a central tray containing mother of pearl handled steel tools.  At the back there are three further cut crystal  perfume bottles  and two cosmetic jars, one containing a swan's-down powder puff. In the lid of the box there is a reversible lift out satin wood  framed mirror having  tessellated and ruched velvet to the other side. Circa 1822. Enlarge Picture


for more please click on link or image

JB218: Exceptional Early 19th century brass inlaid and edged figured rosewood dressing box, with engraved and pierced silver by George Knight of London, the box having inset brass carrying handles, and foliate brass inlay to the top and front, and a separately locked drawer fitted for jewelry. Inside the box there is a liftout tray with silver toped cut crystal boxes three of which are elaborately pierced and engraved ; another is an inkwell. There is also a small engine turned cosmetic jar of the same period but of French manufacture. There is a central tray containing mother of pearl handled steel tools.  At the back there are three further cut crystal perfume bottles and two cosmetic jars, one containing a swan's-down powder puff. In the lid of the box there is a reversible lift out satin wood framed mirror having tessellated and ruched velvet to the other side. Circa 1822. 

iA Lady's Travelling Box" PL 39 Thomas Sheraton's The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book 1793 engraved by G Terry

"A Lady's Travelling Box" PL 39 Thomas Sheraton's The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book 1793 engraved by G Terry.

 

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Sometimes the grooming necessities of the army officer or the traveller were accommodated in the drawer, or in a lift out tray of his writing box. They consisted of glass jars topped with silver plated lids, razors, strops and shaving brushes. 

They fitted very snugly in prearranged spaces to stop them from moving about whilst in transit.

http://hygra.com/uk/wb/wb101/index.htm 
An Early 19th Century Captains Box with elaborate secret drawers and compartments Fitted with dressing accessories By  George Palmer London

Enlarge Picture
for more please click on link or image

An Early 19th Century Captains Box with elaborate secret drawers and compartments Fitted with dressing accessories By George Palmer London

 

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The boxes, which were made just to hold dressing accessories, were more complex. 

Early ones dating from about 1780 were made in solid mahogany with or without brass bindings; these were not usually longer than ten inches. They were wax finished and had a robust unfussy look.

 
http://hygra.com/uk/jb2/jb185 
JB 185: Early 19th century Rosewood veneered  box with brass countersunk handles and subtle  accents. This box typifies the understated quality of the period. The interior is lined in velvet and leather in a color combination which is again typical of the time. The bottles have silver plated tops. It bears the Edwards label. Enlarge Picture
For more information please click on the image or the link.

EDWARDS: 21 King St. Holborn, also Bloomsbury , and for one year, 1813-14 at 84 St. James Str. 1813-1848d. A formidable maker of luxury boxes. David Edwards, and Thomas Edwards (1832-39). The Family connection established through bills. Made for the Royal family. Used kingwood and rosewood extensively. Also mahogany for what he claimed to be "patent travelling cases". Writing boxes and dressing boxes mostly in Regency styles. All Edwards boxes are of impeccable quality.  more: total style; restrained. quality Enlarge Picture


ref JB185
Early 19th century Rosewood veneered box with brass countersunk handles and subtle accents. This box typifies the understated quality of the period. The interior is lined in velvet and leather in a color combination which is again typical of the time. The bottles have silver plated tops. It bears the Edwards label.

 

News | Buying BoxesContact usThe Schiffer BookAdvanced Search | Request current  list of available dressing boxes.

 
 

Inside they usually had a lift out tray where all their flatter jars and dressing tools were fitted. The tray only covered part of the bottom part of the box. 

Taller bottles were fitted at the back or the side where the box was deeper. Under the tray there was room for brushes. The inside of the lid was covered by an envelope flap in leather. When the flap was opened there was a mirror in a recess of the wooden top.

Most of the bottles were covered by silver plated tops. Occasionally a more special box was made with silver topped bottles. The decoration on the silver was restrained and of very high quality.

www.hygra.com/wb/wbdn11dd.htm

A Georgian Mahogany Triple Opening Writing Box and Dressing Box circa 1800

When the tray is lifted, the back panel under the pen tray slides up to reveal two secret drawers.
for more please click on link or image

WB158: A Georgian Mahogany Triple Opening Writing Box and Dressing Box circa 1800.

 

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During the Regency more glamorous vanity boxes were made in exotic woods and with more intricate decoration. The exteriors were made following the same fashions as for writing boxes but keeping to the smaller size. The Regency vanity boxes were made both for men and women.

Their interiors are lavish with velvet or gold embossed leather linings and flaps. 

The glass bottles and jars are often in cut crystal and the tops in exquisitely worked silver. Sometimes they have a tray fitted for holding jewellery under the jar tray. By the third decade the jewellery tray was generally replaced by a drawer.

 

http://www.hygra.com/uk/jb/jb122/ 

A Very High Quality Brass bound   Rosewood  Man's Dressing Box circa 1839 with silver and with a lower  drawer: Enlarge Picture
For more information please click on the image or the link.

A Very High Quality Brass bound   Rosewood  Man's Dressing Box circa 1839 with silver and with a lower  drawer: Enlarge Picture

ref JB122
A Very High Quality Brass bound Rosewood Man's Dressing Box circa 1839 with silver and with a lower drawer.

 

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The vanity box really came to its own during the Victorian period when the balance was reversed. By this time most boxes were made for women. By the middle of the 19th century there were two distinctive types of vanity box:
http://hygra.com/uk/jb2/JB316 
JB316: Brass edged flame mahogany fully fitted dressing box with inset brass handles and Bramah lock opening to a leather covered lift out tray with cut glass bottles with hallmarked silver tops (1827-9) a document wallet in the lid. Circa 1830. Enlarge Picture
For more information please click on the image or the link.JB316: Brass edged flame mahogany fully fitted dressing box with inset brass handles and Bramah lock opening to a leather covered lift out tray with cut glass bottles with hallmarked silver tops (1827-9) a document wallet in the lid. Circa 1830. Enlarge Picture

Enlarge Picture

 

ref JB316
Brass edged flame mahogany fully fitted dressing box with inset brass handles and Bramah lock opening to a leather covered lift out tray with cut glass bottles with hallmarked silver tops (1827-9) a document wallet in the lid. Circa 1830.

 

News | Buying BoxesContact usThe Schiffer BookAdvanced Search | Request current  list of available dressing boxes.

 

 

  1. Rosewood or walnut veneered relatively plain boxes with silver plated top fittings and jewellery drawers or
  2. Rosewood, figured walnut or coromandel veneered boxes usually brass bound or inlaid, with silver topped jars and bottles.

The silver boxes are on the whole of much higher quality. They were made to show the social standing of the owner and were prized as prestigious travelling accessories.

 

 
http://hygra.com/uk/jb2/JB317
JB317: A  very fine and rare brass bound figured rosewood fully fitted traveling/dressing box by D Edwards, with working Bramah lock and countersunk carrying handles, the inside lined in velvet and gold embossed  leather and containing hallmarked silver toped cut lead crystal bottles and jars by Archibald Douglas and having a document wallet and liftout mirror in the lid. Circa 1829.  Enlarge Picture
For more information please click on the image or the link.

Enlarge Picture

 

ref JB317
A very fine and rare brass bound figured rosewood fully fitted traveling/dressing box by D Edwards, with working Bramah lock and countersunk carrying handles, the inside lined in velvet and gold embossed leather and containing hallmarked silver toped cut lead crystal bottles and jars by Archibald Douglas and having a document wallet and liftout mirror in the lid. Circa 1829.

 

News | Buying BoxesContact usThe Schiffer BookAdvanced Search | Request current  list of available dressing boxes.

 
The French approach was different. The elegant boxes made in the Palais Royal area of Paris are packed tight. There are sometimes places to hide the personal  under the bottles. The locks are strange to an English eye and average key.

Alexandre Dumas fils in The Lady of the Camellias (French: La Dame aux camélias) when describing the rooms of his heroine, Marguerite Gautier, which were now up for auction, writes:

“On a large table standing against one wall – it measured a good six feet by three – shone the finest treasures of Aucoc and Odiot. It was a magnificent collection, and among the countless objects so essential to the appearance of the kind of woman in whose home we had gathered, there was not one that was not made of gold or silver. But it was a collection that could only have been assembled piece by piece, and clearly more than one love had gone into its making.

I, who was not the least put out by the sight of the dressing-room of a kept woman, spent some time inspecting its contents, neglecting none of them, and I noticed that all these magnificently wrought implements bore different initials and all manner of coronets.” (translation David Coward)

Casimir Aucoc first started his gold and silversmithing business at 154, rue St Honoré in Paris. The firm moved to 6 rue de la Paix in 1835. 

Aucoc was particularly famous for the their exquisite NÉCESSAIRE DE VOYAGE, nécessaires ŕ la toilette,  tightly packed with  tools and accessories for personal grooming

 

 
http://www.hygra.com/uk/jb/jb128/ 
A fine Paris  NÉCESSAIRE DE VOYAGE  tightly packed with  tools and accessories for personal grooming circa 1820 Enlarge Picture
For more information please click on the image or the link.

The gilded silver toped cut crystal bottles and jars have the Paris silver mark for 1818-1838. more context Enlarge Picture

Enlarge Picture

A fine Paris NÉCESSAIRE DE VOYAGE tightly packed with tools and accessories for personal grooming circa 1820 

 

News | Buying BoxesContact usThe Schiffer BookAdvanced Search | Request current  list of available dressing boxes.

 

Most Victorian boxes still have the jewellery drawer arrangement but there are a few examples of boxes with extra drawers and trick openings which epitomise the trend for mechanical devices on compact multipurpose boxes.

A famous firm of box makers, Betjemans, who worked at Islington in London, took out patents for quite ingenious devices for opening up a vanity box to a veritable cornucopia of treasures.

 

 

http://www.hygra.com/uk/jb/jb125/ 

Enlarge Picture

Enlarge Picture
For more information please click on the image or the link

ref JB125
A  very high quality  Coromandel Dressing box from the second half of 19th century. It features solid silver  hallmarked silver toped bottles two sprung  jewelry  drawers,  a lift out self reversible mirror, rounded brass edgings and working Bramah lock. Circa 1884.

 

News | Buying BoxesContact usThe Schiffer BookAdvanced Search | Request current  list of available dressing boxes.

 
 
http://hygra.com/uk/jb2/JB318 
JB318: A very fine fully fitted figured coromandel dressing box by the Pittway Brothers  with engraved and gilded Bramah lock, stop hinges and accents and having a sprung drawer fitted for jewelry. Inside the box is fully fitted lined with leather and velvet and retains its cut crystal bottles and jars with hallmarked silver tops decorated with chassed repoussé work and engine turning. There is a lift out tray with further tray containing dressing accessories. There is a lift out reversible mirror and document wallet in the lid. Circa 1863. Enlarge Picture
For more information please click on the image or the link.

Enlarge Picture


ref JB318
A very fine fully fitted figured coromandel dressing box by the Pittway Brothers with engraved and gilded Bramah lock, stop hinges and accents and having a sprung drawer fitted for jewelry. Inside the box is fully fitted lined with leather and velvet and retains its cut crystal bottles and jars with hallmarked silver tops decorated with chassed repoussé work and engine turning. There is a lift out tray with further tray containing dressing accessories. There is a lift out reversible mirror and document wallet in the lid. Circa 1863. 

 

News | Buying BoxesContact usThe Schiffer BookAdvanced Search | Request current  list of available dressing boxes.

 

 

After the 1870s wooden vanity boxes were no longer in great demand. They were replaced by leather cases, which had fitted compartments for jars and bottles on the side.

http://hygra.com/uk/jb2/JB319 
JB319: A fully fitted and intricate dressing box  by C. Henry of Manchester in figured coromandel inlaid with engraved shield to the top and escutcheon  in mother of pearl opening to a compartmentalized interior and retaining its original chased silver toped cut  lead crystal jars and bottles by Thomas Whitehouse and having two sprung drawers fitted for jewelry. There is a liftout mirror with gold embossed mirror in the lid and a blind embossed leather document wallet behind. Circa 1860. Enlarge Picture
For more information please click on the image or the link.

Enlarge Picture


ref JB319
A fully fitted and intricate dressing box by C. Henry of Manchester in figured coromandel inlaid with engraved shield to the top and escutcheon in mother of pearl opening to a compartmentalized interior and retaining its original chased silver toped cut lead crystal jars and bottles by Thomas Whitehouse and having two sprung drawers fitted for jewelry. There is a liftout mirror with gold embossed mirror in the lid and a blind embossed leather document wallet behind. Circa 1860.

 

Some more examples of Dressing boxes

 
http://www.hygra.com/uk/jb/jb130/ 
A dramatic high quality figured walnut  dressing box with chassed silver plate top crystal bottles and drop front Circa 1895
For more information please click on the image or the link.
ref JB130
A dramatic high quality figured walnut dressing box with chassed silver plate top crystal bottles and drop front Circa 1895.

 
http://www.hygra.com/uk/jb/jb115/ 

A Very High Quality Brass bound  London maker Coromandel Dressing Box circa 1859 with gilt silver. Enlarge Picture
For more information please click on the image or the link.

ref JB115
A Very High Quality Brass bound London maker Coromandel Dressing Box circa 1859 with gilt silver. 

 
www.hygra.com/dressing/rwvb1.html 

rwv1.jpg (15933 bytes)
For more information please click on the image or the link.

A  Rosewood Dressing Box with Mother of Pearl inlay and solid Sterling Silver circa 1840

 

 
http://www.hygra.com/uk/jb/jb115/ 

dres1.jpg (12525 bytes)
For more information please click on the image or the link.

A Very High Quality Brass bound London maker Coromandel Dressing Box from the middle of the 19th century 

News | Buying BoxesContact usThe Schiffer BookAdvanced Search | Request current  list of available dressing boxes.

Jewellery and Glove Boxes 



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© 1999-2008 Antigone Clarke and Joseph O'Kelly