Zwei Riechfläschchen

Two smelling bottles

Left: Basle(?), dated 1760
right: Basle(?), 2nd third 18th century
Silver, cast, engraved, height 10.5 cm
silver, cast, engraved, enamelled, height 8.2 cm
Inv. 1887.7.
Inv. 1926.39.

3928px x 4822px
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Bottles made to contain aromatic essences come in a great variety of shapes and materials. From the C18 the more precious examples were goldsmiths' work, cast in moulds and then finely worked. They served as love tokens and as remembrances. The most prevalent type in the Basle collection is pear shaped, made of silver, sometimes gilt, or, more rarely, made of gold. The top unscrews to reveal the bung; it has an air hole which makes it easier to open, but also tightens against the bung to close the bottle firmly. Often, as in the bottle on the right, the base also unscrews to reveal a tiny compartment containing a beauty spot or 'mouche'. The bottle on the left is lavishly decorated with masks and animal forms, and with two inlaid plaques with engraved initials, and bears on the reverse the date 1760. Enamel portraits of a lady and a gentleman enliven the front and back of the bottle on the right, which is decorated with scrolling leaf shapes. Both smelling bottles came from the estate of an old Basle family.

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