Attending dances has always been a popular pastime for young people. Dances in the Common Rooms at Bath were chronicled by Jane Austen and the Victorians loved to dance, with social etiquette at these public balls being a subject of many books and plays, Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde to name but one.
Possibly the height of social dancing was the Ball which originated in Vienna in around the 1870s and continued throughout the 1910s. Balls were held to celebrate all types of causes and function and very stylish carnet du bal, or dance cards, were created as a remembrance or souvenir. These Ballspenden, as the Austrians called them, were amazing in their forms and shapes. There were horse heads and telephones, fencing and hiking equipment, depending on the sponsor of a particular ball. As such they are extremely collectible and becoming more and more difficult to find, especially in good condition.
This is an Austrian Carnet du Bal with a nautical theme. My German is dreadful but I think it is to celebrate a Steamfitters Ball. The card is bound in pale green silk fronted with velvet and brass framed. The center of the card is a cameo of a young girl set in a steering wheel of a ship . There is a chain from the card to the hook used to attach the carnet to the waist band of the dancer's dress. In the chain is an anchor.
Inside the card there is a list of that night's dances together with a list of people connected with the organization. This is all printed in gold lettering on cream high quality stock paper. The interior of the card is pristine, it has not been used.
The detail, quality and fabrication associated with these ballspenden is incredible, considering that these were a one-off, a card just for that night.
The admission to Viennese balls was always higher for women to underwrite the cost of creating these small masterpieces.
The main card measures 2.5 inches square with a drop from the hook of 7 inches.
Viennese dating to the very early 1900s.
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