XVII th century luxury in your pocket! It’s at Musée Cognacq-Jay

parisdiaArt, Fashion2 Comments

Marguerite Gérard, “The Bad news”, 1804, Paris Musée du Louvre

Luxe de Poche” or luxury in your pocket at the Age of Enlightment,  is a good title for this precious little exhibition at Musée Cognacq-Jay, founded by the creators of the Samaritaine stores… Beautifully curated by Sixtine de Saint Léger and Vincent Bastien  from Versailles, it offers a sociological study of these intimate snuff boxes, smelling bottles or sewing kits, used by courtiers in the 18 th centuries. Lent by the Louvre, Versailles and the V&A.., the pieces are real jewels, developed by famous artisans and often illustrated in paintings of time, where they show the sophistication and wealth of their owners. The three hundred pieces are well described in cartels (including some for children which I loved) are often adorned with diamonds an other semi precious stones and represent real mosaics.

“Vinaigrette” in the shape of a lady’s leg, Paris Musée des Arts Décoratifs and box in the shape of a leg, 1740-1760, or 19 th century, Paris Musée Cognacq-Jay

Sexy boxes served as messengers for flirting, we see some here in the shape of a leg or an asparagus. A cork screw in agat&a a gold, embroidered evening bags and money holders, the variety of objects is extraordinary. Painter Jean Baptiste Deshayes portrays, in 1762, his wife Jeanne Elisabeth Victoire with a snuff box because, as I learned from the curators, ladies loved to take tobacco. Marguerite Gérard, the famous portraitist revealed by Carole Blumenfeld in her catalogue raisonné, paints “The Bad news” where a maid gives perfume to smell to her mistress after she learns of a dramatic news. The painter had lost her brother Pierre in Napoléon’s campaign of Russia ten years before the 1804 salon where the painting was much admired by the crowds.

A mannequin shows how ladies could hide their precious snuff boxes or perfume bottles in pocket under their gowns

Famous country scenes painted by Watteau, Boucher, Greuze and Fragonard are used to ornate the tobacco boxes. One of the more exceptional in the show was done by the goldsmith

and was probably commissioned by Louis XVI th. It represents Marie Antoinette and the King with his parents as well as his sisters. A sublime desk by Boulle serves to present engravings of the boxes.  The trade of “Marchands Merciers” (on which Musée Cognacq-Jay had a fascinating exhibition in 2018), was developed in Germany and in England as they became trendsetters and key actors in the rise of the consumer revolution.

13 buttons “royal houses” cir 1785, Paris Palais Galliera

The exhibition ends with the most precious diamond adorned snuff boxes. Frederick II of Prussia collects them (he owned 300) and favors a national production in the Royal Manufacture of  Berlin.These items often symbolized friendship or love, celebrated special events. Ernest Cognacq and Marie Louise Jaÿ collected 260 of these objects.  The Gilbert collection housed at the V&A in London,  counts 140 and is one of teh most important collection of jeweled boxes

Paul-Nicolas Ménière, Snuff box with portraits of the Royal family, 1776-1777, Paris Musée Cognacq-Jay.

The exhibition is very pretty and entertaining with excellent cartels. It takes us away from the works on the streets of Paris and the dreary traffic jams. It makes us dream of light pleasures and past luxuries in one of the prettiest houses of the Marais, between Musée Picasso and place des Vosges.

“Luxe de poche” until September 29, at musée Cognacq-Jay.

Vincent Bastien from Versailles and Sixtine de Saint Léger form a remarkable team

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2 Comments on “XVII th century luxury in your pocket! It’s at Musée Cognacq-Jay”

  1. Laure Thank you for your tireless dedication to your newsletter. It is so appreciated by all of us who faithfully read it. Thank you so much for continuing to share Paris with us Cuppy Kraft

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