In the last twenty-five years I handled a considerable number of antique
boxes from the 19th and 18th centuries. These boxes were prominent and important
accessories in the stylish English homes between 1740 to 1900. In my opinion
the social, political, financial and aesthetic developments of this fast
changing period are reflected in these containers to a much higher degree
than in any other form of applied art. The boxes both encapsulate and reflect
the flavour of the era in which they were created.
Although containers were made in various materials, which overlap stylistically,
I am going to confine my notes to my field of expertise, namely to the
ivory, straw work,
papier mâchè and
I have examined boxes in various capacities and situations, as dealer, advisor,
cataloger and conservator. I hope that my years of experience will offer
some guidance both to collectors and to people who wish to use beautiful
things as a way of enhancing their environment.
My views should not be taken as finite. The prospective buyer must put his/her
own input of personal taste and whim at the time of buying. As in the previous
eras the personality of the user is just as important as the personality
of the artist/maker.
The only firm advice I wish to give is for respect of the original thinking
behind the box and for the dignity of its age.
The brief thoughts I offer are just a helping hand through the maze of infinite
variety of style and purpose.