Silver vinaigrette, Europe, 1701-1900

Made:
1701-1900 in Europe
maker:
Unknown

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(A642133) Silver vinaigrette in the form of a skull, hinged, opens into two halves, with a perforated silver gilt inner
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Silver vinaigrette, oval shape, one half in form of a skull and cross-bones, other a face, hinged, opening out to reveal 4 compartments complete with sponges inside

Like pomanders, vinaigrettes could be used as a vessel to hold strong smelling substances to be sniffed should the user be passing through a particularly smelly area. At a time when miasma theories of disease – the idea that disease was carried by foul air – were dominant, carrying a vinaigrette was considered a protective measure. Vapours from a vinegar-soaked sponge in the bottom were inhaled through the small holes in the top of the ‘acorn’. If a person felt faint they could also sniff their vinaigrette and the sharp vinegar smell might shock their body into action.

The other side of the vinaigrette shows a face and could act as a memento mori – a reminder of death. The skull was probably hung from a piece of cord or necklace and carried at all times. It is shown here with another skull-shaped example (A642133).

Details

Category:
Pharmacy-ware
Object Number:
A641486
type:
vinaigrette costume (personal accessories), perfumery, costume (personal accessories), perfumery, vinaigrette
taxonomy:
  • furnishing and equipment
  • container - receptacle
  • furnishing and equipment
  • container - receptacle
  • animal remains

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