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Vinaigrette
Date Made/Found: 1823
Material and Medium: silver, gilt, textile
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: L1938.48
This silver vinaigrette with gilt interior was made in Birmingham in 1823 by Joseph Willmore. Vinaigrettes were originally known as smelling boxes and were carried on the person. This vinaigrette is modelled in the form of a book. It has engraved decoration including the owner's initials, 'AW'. This suggests that it may have been given as a gift. Inside, the box is divided by a compartment with a hinged, perforated lid. A piece of sponge soaked in aromatic vinegar or perfume was placed in this inner compartment. The owner would open up the vinaigrette and inhale its perfume to mask unpleasant smells encountered in the street. The odour was also thought to prevent fainting and even prevent disease. Perfume has always been a luxury commodity and early vinaigrettes were often made of expensive materials, reflecting their expensive contents. Vinaigrette lids are tight fitting, to prevent loss of the precious perfume through evaporation. Perfumes were used in creams, ointments and smelling salts, carried in pomanders and used in toilet waters. Today they are mostly used for cosmetic purposes, but perfumes were once believed to prevent infection.
Display Location: In Store
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