Maison MAIRE travel case. Paris, c. 1825-1830.


Charles X-era nécessaire consisting of a citronnier wood case, decorated with small polished steel studs and fitted with a key, containing chiselled gold, turquoise (insets) and nacre sewing kits. The mercury easel mirror, secured inside the lid by two movable tabs, reveals when removed a folding case for storing paper documents and correspondence.

The sewing kit, placed in a removable cabaret with various compartments, consists of scissors, needle case, thimble, sewing punch, pencil case, glass bottle with stopper, folding ruler, four thread winders, four bobbins and a pincushion pad, the latter embellished with an embroidered floral composition. The gold utensils are decorated with chiselled phytomorphic motifs and stamped with the hallmark ‘ram’s head’. Needle loop and a thread winder (originally set of six) missing. The back of the mirror bears the original maker’s label ‘Rue St. Honoré, N°.154 MAIRE Ft. de Necessaires DU ROI’. Attached is an appraisal issued in 1980 by the Parisian gallery ‘La Galerie des Laques’.

Dimensions: 9×24,5×17 cm



Historical Stylistic Analysis:

The term ‘nécessaire’, from the French ‘nécessaires de voyage’, identifies a series of caskets, mainly made of wood, specially designed to contain kits of utensils of different kinds, ‘necessary’, precisely, to cope with long journeys with the aim of satisfying the different needs of the traveller. Articles of great refinement and strictly personal use, they could contain, for example, tools for dressing table, writing, sewing and cutlery, made of more or less precious materials depending on the manufacturer and the client. This type of artefact had great fortune and use during the 18th and 19th centuries. These centuries were characterised by the Grand Tour, explorations, transatlantic crossings and, more generally, by very uncomfortable and long journeys, far removed from the today’s conditions. The nécessaires described here were made by MAIRE, a Maison based in Paris at ‘Rue St. Honoré, n°.154’ owned by Pierre-Dominique Maire (1763-1827), one of the two main Parisian manufacturers of nécessaires (the other was Martin-Guillaume Biennais, Napoleon’s silversmith) during the revolution and the early empire; he carried out commissioned work for the royals of Europe and the most important dignitaries of the time.
He calls himself ‘Fabricant de Necessaires du Roi’, as stated on the label on the back of the mirror. The quality of workmanship reaches a very high level in this sewing kit, confirmed both by the materials used, above all gold and turquoise stone, and by the fineness and elegance of the chiselling work. The gold parts bear the hallmark depicting a ‘ram’s head’, a mark introduced in France with the Law of 22 October 1817 and used until around 1835 to assay small objects. This nécessaire is also accompanied by an appraisal dated 1980, issued by the Parisian gallery ‘La Galerie des Laques’, which confirming the high quality of the object.

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