Between 1787 and 1809, in the height of the Napoleonic Wars and conquests, this superb Officer's field vanity 'necessaire' or toiletries chest was made. The silver marks tell us that all silver was made during that time (1st coq mark) and that small mark also tells us the silver used is .950/1000 pure silver, a luxurious material in the time it was created, so we can be quite certain it would have been either an Officer of Napoleon's or a titled or Royal traveler who owned this fine set. That it survives in as complete a condition as it does is really quite rare, and speaks to its heritage and to many many generations of family who have cherished it in the 200 + years since it was made and used. Silversmith marks are for Jean-Francois Demoulin, circa 1796-1806. The set was made in Paris, also something affirmed by those silver marks, and it's more than likely it was initially purchased from one of the boutiques that flanked the promenade of the old Palace of Cardinal Richelieu, a gathering place by this time for Napoleon's armies, local dignitaries, and some ladies of the sort that military officers might look for, too, for a little comfort. Prior to this era, the Palais Royal, as the site was known, hosted Royals and dignitaries from around the world, and was not only a site for the finest goods to be had, but also a center of theatre and dining. A long and lauded history, the 'Palais Royal' goods that survive bring a premium for that distinction. I would bet highly this is one, as well. The necessaire is nearly complete, lacking very few of the original fittings. The 2 flasks, whether for cologne or spirits, and the several silver-topped jars are there and well preserved. The two larger flasks are most certainly for liqueurs, spirits, and one has a casting of haze we did not work at removing. You'll find a bottle corkscrew that folds, is spring-loaded to hold firmly when in either position; a tweezers with an ear wax spoon on the tip; a collar brush or barber's brush (holder only, as the bristles have been removed - could be re-bristled), and a little ivory-topped tool I am unsure of, which we are only giving to the buyer since it is original to the set. It is free with the box. As well, there is a razor strop in a leather sheath, and a tortoise shell implement I'm not certain of that appears to be only half of its original self. Experts? The set lacks razors, which would surely have been inside, and also there's a fitting for boot jacks, those tools by which a rider pulls on his boots (lower section, near the hinge). The old mirror remains in the fitting inside lid, as well. There is a retailer in the Paris Flea who has wonderful boxes, some like this one. I look at his collection every time I am in Paris, and marvel at the fine old necessaires, and this one may well find its way back there. The last fine old Palais Royal necessaire we had did go back to France in the end. I am aware of one of these available in France at the moment, less complete, and it is priced 2700 euro. Others I'm aware of are priced even higher.
Very good to excellent condition, age and type considered. The set is remarkably complete for these old ones. I have several boxes that haven't a single implement left inside, but this one has all of its jars and flasks (7 in all) and many of the original implements, shown in our images. The retractable barber's brush, or shaving brush has all of its sterling silver parts, but misses the boar bristles, which can be restored quite easily, really. The razors are missing, and also the boot pulls (I think they're called boot jacks, but I may be wrong). There is a part of a tool I am not identifying out of sheer lack of imagination, but it is in tortoise shell, so we're just giving it to the buyer since it is an original part. it is not complete, and is not part of the sale. I think it's a tongue swab, not sure - and you see it there. A superb set, and the chest is remarkably fine, as well, for being over 200 years old. There are two small losses to the veneer on the box top, visible in our images, and something not so difficult to have restored, but we'll leave that decision to our buyer. We do not have the key at listing time, but I've recently bought a zillion spare small antique keys and we'll try to match one to this lock if possible. But for listing, no key, sorry. A rare find! Not to be missed if you're a Napoleonic War collector, or just an admirer of fine old French silver and or traveler's goods.
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Antique French sterling silver, Georgian jewelry, sewing, Black Forest, etc 17th to 19th c. European
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