Monday, March 24, 2014

Mastery of Design: The Pratbernon Nécessaire, 1766

The V&A
Necessities Case
English, 1766
The Victoria & Albert Museum

A “nécessaire” was a purely luxury object designed to hold a whole range of personal and toiletry items. Scent bottles, cosmetic cases, medicine bottles, writing implements, moustache combs, ear spoons, scissors, nail tools and a whole host of other items were produced to be stored in matching these matching for use by a woman or man of fashion.
The contents of this example which dates to 1766 include: five bottles with stoppers, a pencil and an ivory writing tablet, scissors, a mirror, a comb, a brush, toothpicks, a tongue scraper, a bodkin combined with a spoon for ear wax, and a file combined with a pair of tweezers.

So who created this lovely Rococo box of wood, silver, hold, tortoise shell, ivory, agate and mother-of-pearl?
  Tucked inside the box, visible only if tall of the fittings are removed, are the signature and date “J. Pratbernon / 1766.”  This was probably the John Pratbernon who described as a gold and silver worker living on Oxford Street in 1774.
Another feature which makes this nécessaire all the more exceptional is the inclusion of figured scenes in gold which have been applied atop and along the sides of the case.  The scenes show pastoral groups in then-contemporary dress, acting as a permanent reminder of the style to which the owner of this case aspired. Matching figures surmount the individual bottles.

Join us tomorrow for more pretty things, and, this week's Treat of the Week.  See you then.

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