A pretty butterfly wing decorated miniature compact by Coty dating from the 1930s
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear for age
SIZE: 2 ins (5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1930s
MATERIALS: metal, glass, butterfly wing
This is a pretty compact whose base material is brass. The lid is brass and has an inset pictorial design of a crinoline lady with a bonnet and holding a basket of flowers. Her billowing skirt is made from butterfly wings and she stands outdoors in a garden with trees and flowers.
The compact is marked COTY, Paris on the back
Inside the lid is a mirror and a compartment for powder with a spring up fitting. The hinge is not loose and the closure snaps shut and works well. There is no powder puff or sifter. The case has case has previously contained product but has now been cleaned out.
The collage photograph shows illustrations taken from contemporary ads for compacts, makeup and beauty products. Mid century advertisements were designed evoke an aura of glamour and romance.
Initially make up was regarded as rather daring and most compacts were imported from France. However attitudes were changing in the early 20th century and Coty was one of the great French perfume houses who began producing compacts in the 1920s and 1930s. These compacts usually have a base with a design on the back which resembles watered silk and are signed with COTY, Paris in a cartouche.
Most of the compacts utilizing wings from the morpho butterfly for decoration seem to have been produced somewhere between the 1920s and the 1950s. Thomas Mott who exhibited at the 1924 Great Empire Exhibition is credited with the rise in popularity of this art form. It was used to decorate not only powder compacts but also jewelry, small pictures, trays and other vanity objects.
This type of jewellery is not instantly recognizable as being made from butterfly wings because the wing itself forms the background of the piece, rather than the main feature. The colour of the wings are often a vibrant blue, so it lends itself to a water or sky motif. Then, an artist may reverse paint the forefront of the scene to make the piece of jewellery or vanity item that you are viewing.
The pictures of crinoline ladies, children or birds are considered the most desirable, but tropical paradise scenes are also appealing.
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