Equipage (chatelaine) with central etui and two appendages
Object Place: France
24 x 10 x 2.1 cm (9 7/16 x 3 15/16 x 13/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
During the eighteenth century, elaborate Rococo-style equipages with hinged belt hooks, decorative plaques, side appendages, and a central watch or etui (multi-purpose container) were fashionable accoutrements to formal dress. In this example, the belt hook and dependent plaques are cast in relief and feature Erotes figures and goddesses in Classical garb arranged in asymmetric cartouches. Flanking these elements are hinged, oval boxes made of hammered sheet metal decorated with ornamental swags and shells. Now empty, the boxes may once have held a thimble and thread.
The main component of the equipage is the etui which is suspended from a swivel hoop and embellished on both sides. Depicted on the front is a seated woman in an idyllic garden reading a book while Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom and patron of the arts, is shown seated in an outdoor setting on reverse. Inside the etui are various gilt-metal implements, including a miniature spoon; a folding knife whose handle is adorned with raised-relief flowers; a pick; and a small scoop. Several utensils are now missing and it is likely that one was a tiny fork.
By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, chatelaines with watches and multi-purpose containers gained in popularity among both sexes. This increased interest was a result of extensive promotion by fashion writers and its use by royals such as Alexandra, Princess of Wales. The demise of this functional adornment occurred early in the twentieth century after a brief appearance of home-made, fabric forms.
Gift of Miss Emily M. Babcock