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 a number of lacquerware pieces, including a set of dressing boxes, of which this example is part, likely for use by Martha Washington or one of Mrs. Washington's granddaughters: Martha, Eleanor, or Eliza Parke Custis. The elegant containers were used to store small items such as jewelry or hair pins.


Ovular-cylinder shaped lacquered box with independent lid; the sides are decorated with stylized branches featuring round-edged leaves, cherry blossoms, and chrysanthemum flowers hand painted in gilt; the top of the lid is ornamented with an oval field of Chinese lattice (repeating hexagons, each containing a circle) over which is another branch of chrysanthemum flowers and round-edged leaves; parts of the top edge and the whole of the bottom lip of the lid is outlined in gilt; the top of the shoulder and tip of the base lip is faced with gilt.


c. 1784-1805



Wood, lacquer, gilt


Overall: 2 5/8 in. x 2 3/8 in. x 1 1/2 in. (6.68 cm x 6.05 cm x 3.81 cm)
Other (lid): 13/16 in. x 2 3/8 in. x 1 1/2 in. (2.06 cm x 6.05 cm x 3.81 cm)
Other (base): 2 1/4 in. x 2 3/8 in. x 1 1/2 in. (5.72 cm x 6.05 cm x 3.81 cm)

Credit Line

Donated in memory of Mary Kathleen Yerby and Doris Andrews, 2004

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

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