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 these four are 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.

See also dressing box, W-4387, and dressing box, W-654.


Square lacquered box with independent lid; the sides are decorated with stylized branches featuring lobed leaves and chrysanthemum flowers hand painted in gilt; the top of the lid is ornamented with a rectangular field of Chinese lattice (repeating hexagons, each containing a circle) over which is another branch of chrysanthemum flowers and round-edged leaves; the top edge and bottom lip of the lid is lined in gilt; the top of the shoulder and tip of the base lip is faced with gilt.


c. 1784-1805



Wood, lacquer, gilt


Other (lid): 13/16 in. x 1 3/4 in. x 1 3/4 in. (2.06 cm x 4.45 cm x 4.45 cm)
Other (base): 2 1/4 in. x 1 3/4 in. x 1 3/4 in. (5.72 cm x 4.45 cm x 4.45 cm)
Overall: 2 5/8 in. x 1 3/4 in. x 1 3/4 in. (6.68 cm x 4.45 cm x 4.45 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Charles A. Conrad, 1894

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

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