These two tiny scent bottles are a part of one of my favorite pieces from my collections.
They belong to a perfume étui, which is a small case holding a scent bottle or bottles. But this time, it’s a case within a case. And it has a very interesting provenance that dates it to 1770.
The image above shows the outer case. It is made of shagreen, which is the skin of a shark or other thick-skinned fish, ground flat so that the pearl-like papillae create a granulated pattern. It is then dyed various colors, most typically green in the 18th century, but in this case black. The case measures not quite 2” tall.
The image above shows the outer case open to reveal the inner case of pierced sterling. You can see the little scent bottles inside. The case is lined with red velvet.
The image above shows the silver case removed, with the top open to show the tiny scent bottles within. The silver case measures 1¾” tall.
You can see above the scent bottles outside the silver case. The bottles are just under 1½” tall. They are made of Bristol green glass, and gilt painted in a Chinoiserie pattern by the master decorator James Giles. The bottles have matching gilded glass stoppers, but it looks as though there might have been sterling lids that screwed on the tops, but are now missing. However, if such lids ever existed, they could not have been much taller than the glass stoppers, which fit tightly within the silver case.
The image above shows the underside of the sterling case, engraved with the initials “A.O.” And luckily, we know who “A.O” was. Tucked behind the silver case inside the shagreen case was a tiny note, shown below.
“This silver case was given to Miss Hugginson’s mother in 1770, and has her initials on it, A.O. Anne Ormerod. The box is shagreen.” And on the back of the note it continues. “The bottles are Bristol glass.”
I did some digging and found Anne Ormerod was born in Lancashire County near Manchester in 1752. At some point she married a man named Hugginson, but I could find neither his first name nor the date of the marriage. She died in 1833. We know that she had at least one child, the Miss Hugginson of the note. And another tiny surprise was tucked beneath the note in the case.
This teeny tiny photograph of Miss Hugginson is just 1″ tall. On the reverse it says “Miss Hugginson died in 1871.”
So, not only is this case-within-a-case with lovely green glass scent bottles a treasure on its own, but the provenance of its original owner and her daughter make it even more special.