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Etui With Writing And Grooming Instruments (England)

This is a Etui with Writing and Grooming Instruments. It is dated 1770–80 and we acquired it in 1931. Its medium is enamel on copper, gilt copper, steel, ivory, cut wood. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

This etui, or case, also called a nécessaire, holds scissors, a needle case, thread, penknife, tweezers, pencil, and ivory tablet, all “necessary” to 18th-century women of social status. The same artisan probably also made cutlery, but did not enamel the case. While some objects suggest delicate sewing and grooming, the small pencil and ivory tablet could have served both for domestic lists and as a reusable dance card.
Feminine scrolls and images of Venus and Cupid, as well as of Diana the huntress and a dog, a symbol of faithfulness, imply that this enameled copper case was likely a gift from husband to wife. The materials and techniques suggest it was a product aimed at merchant classes newly rich from the industrial revolution, centered in the middle of England, where the case was made. It was more affordable than the high-style gold work done in London or crafted by foreign goldsmiths.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled One Woman’s Fancy is another’s Necessaire..

This object was bequest of Sarah Cooper Hewitt. It is credited Bequest of Sarah Cooper Hewitt.

  • Woman’s Workbox With Lid (USA)
  • carved wood, walrus-ivory inlay.
  • Collection of Edward W. Nelson, 1879, Gift of Edward W. Nelson, Department of....
  • 15.2012.55
  • Awl And Cord (USA)
  • carved and perforated bone, hide cord.
  • National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 4/8457.
  • 17.2012.4
  • Writing Toolbox (England)
  • enamel on copper, gilt copper, glass, wood.
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of John Gellatly, 1929.8.245.26.
  • 21.2012.1

Our curators have highlighted 7 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

  • Needle Case (Germany)
  • label: painted cardboard covers, silk leaves lined with wool.
  • Gift of the estate of Mrs. Lathrop Colgate Harper.
  • 1957-180-45

Its dimensions are

H x W x D: 10 x 4.3 x 2 cm (3 15/16 x 1 11/16 x 13/16 in.)

Cite this object as

Etui With Writing And Grooming Instruments (England); enamel on copper, gilt copper, steel, ivory, cut wood; H x W x D: 10 x 4.3 x 2 cm (3 15/16 x 1 11/16 x 13/16 in.); Bequest of Sarah Cooper Hewitt; 1931-6-105-a/h

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Etui With Writing And Grooming Instruments (England) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=3 December 2022 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>