Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Work Box, 1815

Work Box, 1815
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here, we see a work box of wood and leather from the early part of the Nineteenth Century. Work boxes, were ostensibly containers for sewing and embroidery tools and materials, and were made up of many small compartments which allowed for easy organization. This particular box from the Victoria & Albert Museum also features a secret drawer behind the drawer at the front—a rather uncommon design for such a box--which opens by pulling a hidden catch. Clearly, this is an expensive example for a workbox and would have been made for a lady of leisure. Its leather cover and scene-printed silk lining tell us that this box, though practical, was also meant to be a luxurious status symbol.

The box retains most of its original fittings, including two fixed pin cushions which are covered with printed silk, and several lidded compartments. It still boasts its collection of small tools and souvenirs, such as a pin cushion in inlaid wood with silk-covered cushions at each end. This adorable cushion still bears a paper label that reads 'A trifle from BRIGHTON'. An ivory tape measure with its original silk tape, and a tiny circular needle case covered in green silk complete the set.

A brass plaque on the outside of the lid has not been engraved with initials, so we’ll never know to whom this box originally belonged. It was, however, purchased in the 1930s by Queen Mary, consort of George V (ruled 1910-1936) who made great efforts to collect as many various items from the Georgian and Victorian periods as she could. As she often did, Queen Mary bought this box with the V&A in mind. She gifted the item to the museum immediately after its purchase

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