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 and purchased several lacquerware pieces, likely for use by Martha Washington or one of her granddaughters: Martha, Eleanor, or Eliza Parke Custis. This box was originally part of a larger set within the drawer of a dressing glass which descended in the family of Eliza Parke Custis Law. Such elegant containers were likely used to store cosmetic powders or accessories such as jewelry and hair pins.

See also the dressing glass W-315 and boxes W-543/A-D and W-221/B-H.


Shaped box with independent lid decorated with gilt over dark brown or black lacquer. The top, short side of the box is straight, the bottom, short side follows an S-curve, one long side is straight, and the other is scalloped. Cover features a pink or red peony on gilt ground at center, bordered by a geometric-patterned ground of overlapping circles with stars at their centers. Floral and leafy sprigs on sides. Interiors and outside bottom lacquered.






Cypress, lacquer, gilt


Overall: 4 1/8 in. x 3 15/16 in. x 1 3/4 in. (10.48 cm x 10 cm x 4.45 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. George R. Goldsborough, Vice Regent for Maryland, 1882
Conservation courtesy of the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation

Object Number


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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