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Art Deco debuted at the International Exhibition of Modern and Industrial Decorative Arts in:

London in 1900.
Berlin in 1916
Paris in 1925
                     To see the answer

ART DECO
1910 - 1939
by Charlotte & Tim Benton

Art deco—the style of the flapper, the luxury ocean liner, and the skyscraper—came to epitomize the glamour, luxury, and hedonism of the Jazz Age. After bursting onto the world stage, it quickly swept the globe, influencing everything from architecture to interior design, fashion jewelry, and radios. Above all, it became the style of the pleasure palaces of the age—hotels, nightclubs, and movie theaters.
                                   
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The Keeper of the Keys
by Bob Brooke

 

During Victorian times, many women, either mistresses of the house or housekeepers in large mansions, who were in charge of keeping the keys to doors, drawers, and cabinets, wore a decorative belt hook with a series of chains suspended from it, called a chatelaine at their waist. Household items, including a small pair of scissors, a thimble, a pendant watch, a vinaigrette (to use in case someone fainted), a stamp holder, a match safe, and a household seal, hung from the chains. But the most important items hanging from the chatelaine were the keys needed by the person who managed the household.

The name chatelaine comes from the French term châtelaine, first used disparagingly because it referred to a device designed to have all the tools necessary for the woman of the household to sort out any problem she might encounter during the day, like a fraying curtain.

Women as far back as ancient Rome wore chatelaines from which hung ear scoops, nail cleaners, and tweezers. Women in Roman Britain wore “chatelaine brooches” from which they hung toilet sets.

Clothes didn’t have pockets, or not ones big enough to hold much and purses if carried were small. The Chatelaine kept a woman’s necessities together and available at all times. There were Chatelaines for sewing and some for writing and some plainer ones that held keys or coins.

The chatelaine became a status symbol for women in the 19th century. The woman who held the keys to all the many desks, chest of drawers, food hampers, pantries, storage containers, and many other locked cabinets was "the woman of the household." As such, she was the one who gave directions to the servants, housemaids, cooks and delivery servicemen. She would also open or lock the access to the valuables of the house.

Frequently, the woman who wore the chatelaine was the senior woman of the house. When a woman married a son and moved into his father's house, the son's mother would usually hold on to the keys. However, if the mother became a widow, the keys and their responsibilities and status became the responsibility of the eldest son's wife.

Younger women and daughters in the house, who wanted it to appear as if they had this responsibility, would often wear an intricate chatelaine without the keys, but with a variety of other objects. Instead of the keys, they attached bright and glittering objects, which she could use to start a conversation. If there wasn’t a woman of the house, the person who’s responsibility it was to hold the keys was often a hired housekeeper.

Craftsmen used gold or silver to fashion most chatelaines. Some had beautiful intricate vitreous enamel decorations. Most chatelaines were between 8 and 13inches long and between 2 and 3 inches wide.

While women purchased complete chatelaines, they often would buy other objects to hang on them, perhaps while traveling, much like charms on a charm bracelet.

One of these objects was the vinaigrette bottle. These came in a variety of colors and designs, including ruby red glass, covered with a gilt brass casing, decorated with birds or flowers. These little bottles had hinged gilt lids which closed tightly. Women used them to recover from fainting spells—a malady in Victorian times.

A variation of the viniagrette was the scent/perfume bottle. Many people think these are scent bottles for perfume, and women used them for that as well. But many ladies had a scent bottle on their sewing Chatelaine's to store clean water in so they could clean the tips of their fingers to keep the garment or quilt clean that they were working on. Some small etui's have little glass bottles on the inside that held clean water. Remember, at that time there weren't sinks everywhere in which women could wash their hands.

Sewing Chatelaines
Beside the household chatelaine described above, women also had specialized chatelaines. The one most used was a sewing chatelaine. On its chains hung items that would help the owner with sewing chores. Often craftsmen made these of European silver which has 800 parts silver and is stronger than sterling which has 925 parts silver, thus making it softer.

On one of the chains hung an Etui, a small box on which would have been decorated with perhaps rural scenes or floral designs which could hold pins or other sewing necessities.

On two of the other chains hung a large and a small needle holder. These may have been decorated with a repoussé of small animals or plants. Some needle holders had the shape of fruits, such as strawberries, and were about one and half to three inches long.

Another chain held a sterling hinged thimble holder with an emery tip and a sterling silver size 9 thimble inside. Yet another held a Gorham sterling silver scissor case with sterling handled scissors and sterling capped acorn shaped emery. The sewing chatelaine also included a small notebook and a retractable pencil, and it might also include a round pincushion between two disks.

A common motif was gardening, with baskets of flowers by gardening tools, as well as swags and bows. The pincushion has a garland of flowers, which matches all the flowers on the decorative swags.

Dance Chatelaines
Some women wore a special chatelaine when they went to parties or went dancing. Dangling from its chains was a small container holding face powder, a small mirror, and a small notebook and pencil for jotting down names and addresses of people she met. It might even have had a tiny photograph album containing four photos of her family which she could show to other guests.

Photo Album
Another item that often hung from a chatelaine in the late 19th century was a small metal notebook with little holders on the side for the original pencil. Removing the pencil and opening the notebook, accordion style, reveals 10 tiny pictures. Bows and flowers impress one side of the notebook, the other has a family crest.
 

 


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How to Recognize and Refinish Antiques for Pleasure and Profit

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