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Label

American demand for exotic Chinese imports increased with the onset of direct trading between China and the United States in 1784. While President, George Washington took advantage of the wide variety of Chinese luxury goods arriving in New York and Philadelphia. He purchased several lacquerware pieces, including this dressing glass, likely for use by Mrs. Washington or one of his granddaughters: Martha, Eleanor, or Eliza Parke Custis. It would have held jewelry as well as costly toiletries such as powder and scented waters. This dressing glass descended in the family of Eliza Parke Custis Law.

See also boxes W-543/A-D and dressing glasses: W-221/A and W-219.

Description

Black or dark brown lacquered dressing glass with oval, swinging mirror between curved standards attached to a serpentine-front box with a single drawer with thumb-molded upper and lower edges on the front and sides and ogee-shaped front and side aprons on four bracket feet. The mirror frame has a slightly rounded or domed face with a gilt, geometric-patterned ground of overlapping circles with stars at their centers and a gilt-decorated, trefoil finial consisting of a solid oval within sawn-out scroll or cypher work surmounted by a solid, basket-shaped ornament. The oval is painted with a bouquet. The standards have rounded faces and are shaped at top in the form of half a trefoil and at bottom form an open D-shape with a vertical bar intersecting the center. Gilt decoration in the form of a chain of husks or bellflowers punctuated by eight-petal flowers adorns their front faces. The box top and sides each feature gilt decoration in the form of one oval reserve filled with floral designs on a gilt background surrounded by a geometric-patterned ground of overlapping circles with stars at their centers. The drawer front has two such oval reserves, each oriented around the drawer pulls, and a gilt diamond painted around the keyhole. Gilt chains of husks or bellflowers punctuated by eight-petal flowers and framed by two narrow gilt lines ornament the upper and lower molding of the box and the front edges of the sides. Gilt floral and leafy sprigs adorn the apron and feet.

A single piece, vertical backing board is held in place by three wooden keys on the back of the mirror and one wooden key screwed to the top of the mirror frame. Brass thumbscrews with wingnuts (modern) secure the mirror within the standards. The standards are tenoned through the top of the box. The box and drawer appear to be nailed and glued together. The drawer has two brass pulls and a lock at center.
The feet are extensions of the skirts.

Date

1790-1800


People


Geography


Material/Technique

Cypress, lacquer, gilt, brass, glass


Dimensions

Other (H x W x D of case without looking glass frame): 17 1/8 in. x 28 5/8 in. x 11 3/8 in. (43.5 cm x 72.71 cm x 28.89 cm)


Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. George R. Goldsborough, Vice Regent for Maryland, 1882


Marks

Drawer back and inside top proper right of case painted (in black) with Chinese characters.


Object Number

W-315


Colors (Beta)


Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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