Presenting a beautiful 19th century Chinese shagreen over wood eyeglass case. Included is an incomplete pair of Chinese eyeglasses that were found within them.
The case has the unique patterning, richness of color and depth under the unexpectedly smooth surface that shagreen collectors adore. The shagreen covering a wooden frame slides together to close securely. The original leather thong completes the case.
Although the case would stand alone as a collector's piece, we didn't want to separate it from the original glasses it was crafted to hold. At that time,eyeglasses in China were largely worn in imitation of the foreigners they saw wearing them. As the Europeans wearing them were often older and used them when reading, wearing glasses became associated with age and wisdom, both well respected traits in Chinese culture.
The lenses of the period, therefore, are polished rock crystal and not corrective. This handmade frame is accented with stylized bat motifs; a familiar symbol of good fortune.
Glasses did not curve around the ear but, rather, rested on them and were instead counter-balanced by small weights that hung from the ends of the earpiece. These are missing from this pair,as are one of the earpieces.
Even with the missing parts, the eyeglasses are an unique and interesting bit of history. They would be sure to spark conversation displayed with the case, and would add interest and authenticity within an existing a collection of period shagreen.
Shagreen has been a luxurious decorative material for many centuries. Signifying luxury and exoticism, this often controversial material is once more in vogue.
Shagreen typically refers to the skin of rays, sharks or dogfish, all of which are cartilaginous fish with a smoothly pebbled texture. Supposedly, ray skin has been prized since the time of the pharaohs, and during the Chinese Han Dynasty (202 BC - AD 220).
Europe began importing shagreen-covered objects during the 17th and 18th centuries, and in the mid-1700s, a tanner in Paris became the first European shagreen expert (his name, Galluchat, has been transformed into galuchat, the French word for shagreen.) Louis XV's most famous mistress, Madame de Pompadour, was the dominant patron of Monsieur Galluchat, and it was said that a week didn't go by when she didn't buy some new object, often in shagreen
Condition: There is a bit of wear on the edge of one side of the case. There are losses to the finish over the wood closure. The glasses, as mentioned above, are missing the counterweights and one earpiece.
The case measures approximately 6 inches by 2 1/2 inches. the glasses measure 5 inches by 1 3/4 inches closed. Additional photos will be posted shortly.
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