Traveling Dressing Table Set (England), 1875
Coromandel-veneered joined wood, lined with silk, gilded and tooled calfskin leather, raised, chased and engraved silver, cut glass, mirrored glass, carved mother-of-pearl (handles), cut and engraved brass (hinges and tools), gilt-metal, forged steel (imp. Gift of Danny J. H. Kauffman. 1984-133-1-a/i.
What is this?
-1b: jewelry drawer
-1c: jewelry drawer cover
-1e: interior tray with silver handles
-1f: tray for manicure tools
rectangular box,lined with purple silk, fitted with leather document holders, and mirror with gold-leaf foliate border, the upper level with 4 rectangular and 1 central faceted silver-lidded cylindrical cologne jars, 3 silver-lidded glass boxes, 2 silver-lidded glass ink bottles, mother-of-pearl handled sewing implements, tweezers, button hook, pen knife and hole punch or scorer-all in the upper compartment, a secret drawer below fitted with a letter writing slide.
Why is this important?
Unlike today, when air travel requires carry-on toiletry liquids to be in clear plastic bags and other containers, in the 19th century, this elegant dressing-table box would have held stylish and functional implements. The owner probably had someone to carry it for him or her, so considerations such as weight and sturdiness were not paramount. While both sexes availed themselves of such boxes, with minor variations of implements, this example appears more likely to have been a man’s. In 1870s London, a man might have had creams for his hair and wax for his moustache, colognes and manicure equipment, and buttonhooks and other items needed for dressing. The leisure classes were likely to communicate by mail as well, often several times a day, so this traveling case provides pouches for stationery, pen, inkwell, and sander, as well as a surface in a concealed drawer for composing (and perhaps hiding) correspondence.
This object has been included in the following exhibitions: