19th Century Patchbox – handpainted woman, enameling, mercury mirror


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Found in the U.K., this antique 19th century patchbox is in remarkably good condition. For those of you who don’t know what patchboxes are they held tiny pieces of black velvet or black silk with gum-adhesive on the back so that women (and oftentimes men) could apply them to their face to mimic faux beauty marks (think Cindy Crawford). They were also applied to cover acne or smallpox scars. These dark faux beauty marks against a ghostly white, heavily powdered face, were a sign of wealth and upperclass status. The small patchbox could be tucked inside a ladies pocket or handbag, easily accessible should she need to apply another spot for one that had fallen off–hence the mirror.  It features a handpainted enamel miniature portrait painting  of a woman  wearing a large hat, set against a dark blue background and set in textured brass, which is then set in brass filigree.  The top border features cobalt, yellow-gold and red-orange hearts and crosses in graduated sizes against a blue-green background. Surrounding the bottom edge are embossed leaves of brass. The lid opens to what appears to be a beveled mercury mirror that has silvering flaws typical of old mirrors.   At some point someone has glued a piece of green felt to the bottom and I have not attempted to remove it to see if there are any markings on the bottom. Lid closes securely.  Measures approx. 2 l/4″ in diameter and l/4″ deep.


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