Stylized Poppies Matchsafe, 1900–10
The first matches, invented in the mid-1820s, were dangerous, unpredictable, and could easily ignite—especially when held in one’s pocket against clothing that moved and created friction. Variously called matchsafes, match boxes, and vesta cases, these accoutrements were developed as early as the 1830s in response to a practical need for safety, taking the form of existing snuff boxes with the addition of a strike plate on the box’s base. By midcentury, the matchsafe popularized as a distinct accessory and a surface on which craftsmen could showcase their technical and stylistic creativity. Countless thousands of matchsafes created in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the US and Europe, with many designs patented and styles following fashion trends and tastes. Images included the sinuous women of Art Nouveau, advertisements, historic sites and travel destinations, historical and contemporary figures, animals, and many others. This piece depicts a group of stylized poppies. Floral motifs were common in the Art Nouveau period, when many designers were inspired by the transformations of the natural world. Here, the stems impossibly twist and curve, connecting the three flowers.
Its dimensions are
6.2 x 4 x .9 cm (2 7/16 x 1 9/16 x 3/8 in. )
It has the following markings
HAND CHASED and STERLING stamped on front bezel; 936 stamped on reverse bezel.
Cite this object as
Stylized Poppies Matchsafe, 1900–10; USA; silver; 6.2 x 4 x .9 cm (2 7/16 x 1 9/16 x 3/8 in. ); Gift of Stephen W. Brener and Carol B. Brener; 1978-146-327