ASCAS Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver
article # 212
by Katherine Palthey
(click on photos to enlarge image)

Examining the Queen's silver candlesticks, bottle collection and service bell

In 1791 the Queen of France Marie-Antoinette ordered an extraordinary "Necessaire" travelling case made by the Royal Cabinetmaker Jean Philippe Palma and Royal Silversmith Jean-Pierre Charpenat. This travelling necessaire is almost identical to her original case found in the Louvre. Part one of this article can be found in our listing, and explains a bit more in detail the provenance of this case and how it made its way to where it is now: The International Museum of Perfumery in Grasse, France. During our private meeting at the time, I had the immense honor of examining and photographing several important pieces from the Queen's Necessaire. In part 1 I shared with you a chocolate pot, a spirit burner and a toddy beaker and their respective hallmarks. In this part, I will share three more silver items that were examined: a pair of silver "bougeoirs de voyage" candlesticks for travelling; an entire set of toiletry jars with silver or vermeil "cache bouchons" bottle covers and a rare "clochette de service" royal service bell. As mentioned in the first article, there are over 50 pieces in this necessaire and it takes almost 2 1/2 hours to unpack the entire case. Here are the two travelling cases presented again for your consideration:
Grasse Museum of Perfumery: Necessaire
Grasse Museum of Perfumery: Necessaire
Grasse Museum of Parfumery: Necessaire
Louvre Museum: Necessaire
Candlesticks that were made for transport started appearing in the 13th century, but the word "bougeoir" is seen only after the 16th century. These particular royal candle sticks were made in two parts: the circular saucer base measuring 10 cm in diameter and the stem socket. The candle stem and socket measure almost 5 cm high, is unscrewable and has a circular design with filet style carved rims. The pair weighs 405 grams and shows hallmarks from 1787-88 by the Royal silversmith Jean-Pierre Charpenat. Please note that a very similar pair of silver candlesticks by J.P. Charpenat was also noted to be on exhibit in the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 1948 as well (photographed on page 387 Objets Civile Domestique). In the 18th century, many smaller forms of bougeoirs were found: hanging candlesticks for the carriages and hallways; candlesticks with short side handles for transporting from room to room; high candlesticks for tables and side tables, lever controlled candlesticks that push the wax candle upwards as it burns, etc.
Lifting tablet to store the candlesticks within the water basin
Lifting tablet to store the candlesticks within the water basin
The Queen's royal candleholders were made specifically for placing down on a table while she was sewing, writing, dining or preparing herself. This travel case was especially important while escaping-as so many pieces could be cleverly stored and protected safely. In this travelling case, the candlesticks are unscrewed and placed within the large water bowl also made by J.P. Charpenat. Once the writing tablet is raised and closed, the pair can be stored safely inside. The hallmarks are on the bottom outside edge of both bougeoirs. In addition, the candle sockets "binets" are also hallmarked with two more just underneath their top rims.
Pair of travelling candlesticks, 1788, Jean-Pierre Charpenat Pair of travelling candlesticks, 1788, Jean-Pierre Charpenat
Pair of travelling candlesticks, 1788, Jean-Pierre Charpenat
Hallmarks on socket binet Hallmarks on socket binet
Hallmarks on socket "binet":
1. Paris smalls countermark 1786-1789: eagles head facing left
2. Minerve 1st on the right of the binet, and again on the circular base of the saucer (950/1000 after 1838)
Hallmarks on the bottom outside edge of base
Hallmarks on the bottom outside edge of base
Hallmarks on the bottom outside edge of base
Hallmarks on the bottom outside edge of base:
Top image from left to right
1. Minerve 1st (950/1000) for after 1838
2. Paris Countermark 1786-1789 for small silvers: eagles head facing left
3. Paris Charge for small silvers: LL or snake intertwined, Tax Farmer Henri Clavel 1783-1789
4. Partial JPC Makers Mark for silversmith Jean Pierre Charpenat 1788, Royal Silversmith
5. Partial "A" Crowned charge for Paris June 1783- February 1789, Tax Farmer Henri Clavel
The next group examined were Marie Antoinette's 14 handmade crystal bottles with their silver covers. Each bottle fits nicely into their individual compartment in her travel case. Eighteenth century bottles have different shapes and colors in general depending on their functionality and what was contained in them. For example, historically, medicine and liquids that should be kept away from sunlight were put into darker colored glass bottles for protection. In this collection two are colored bottles and 12 are transparent colored. The 12 transparent bottles have eight sides (either octagonally or four sided with the corners cut) and screw tops inside or silver necks attached to covers as shown in the close up pictures. These bottles contained liquids such as "des teintures" liquid makeup/foundation for the Queen's skin tone; "des huiles", oils; "eaux de senteur" perfumes; "des liquors" alcohols/liquor and other liquids. Of these 14 bottles ten have silver gilt (vermeil) bottle covers while four have silver bottle covers. Each bottle cover is properly hallmarked with both the discharge for very small articles: eagle head facing left for Paris 1750-56, and then the bores head for after 1838. (see close ups below.) It was not unusual to have certain pieces to be hallmarked much earlier than the other elaborate silvers as this case was ordered last minute and rushed to completion. Jean Pierre Charpenat specialized in necessaires and therefore had access to the finest and most extensive collections when completing royal orders.
Collection of 14 crystal bottles, Grasse Collection of 14 crystal bottles, Grasse
Collection of 14 crystal bottles, Grasse
Close up of bottle top types, Grasse Close up of bottle top types, Grasse
Close up of bottle top types, Grasse
The two color exceptions were the blue bottle on the bottom right which contained methylene and the brown bottle to the left which is marked "Gouttes Anodines de Sydenham" pain killing drops of Sydenham's anodyne. Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689) was an English physician and his medicine recipes were used by nobles throughout Europe by the 18th century. He was known as the "English Hippocrates" and these "gouttes de Sydenham" were actually a preparation of an opium based medicine. This medicine was used at the time mostly as a pain killer: for example: settling stomach cramps, calming digestive pains and reducing fevers. One must understand that at Marie Antoinette's time, one needed to have these various bottles on hand while travelling as it took hours and perhaps days before a doctor could reach the patient. For the Queen, this was an absolute must, especially as she knew she would be travelling for several days before reaching her escape destination...
Hallmarks on the outside of the bottle cover Hallmarks on the outside of the bottle cover
Hallmarks on the outside of the bottle cover:
1. Discharge mark, Paris 1750-1756 for small silver: eagle's head facing left; Tax Farmer Julien Berthe (page 329: Les grand Orfèvres de Louis XIII-Charles X)
2. Boars Head for after 1838, for small silver: fineness 950/1000
The third item, the Queen's silver service bell "clochette de service" was a rare and interesting piece. This service bell is part of the original necessaire and was also crafted by the Royal silversmith Jean Pierre Charpenat in 1787-1788. This service bell is rare by its very small dimensions and light weight, thus allowing the queen to easily grasp the small handle. This service bell has a very simple form with turning and filet molding along the edges matching the other pieces in the case made by Mr. Charpenat. In France, the hallmarking areas usually included the bell, the clapper and the handle. In examining this bell, two hallmarks are present on the outside bottom rim of the bell, and three inside the bell. The inside clapper had no evidence of hallmarks, but may have been worn off. Hand bells were first seen in the 14th century, but their presence on the table in France began only after the beginning of the 17th century. By the mid 1700s, these hand bells were used as service bells and were elegantly designed specially to match the service present on the table. This royal service bell stands only 11 cm tall, 6.5 cm wide at the outer rim and weighs only 157 grams.
Service bell showing hallmarks on outer bottom rim Service bell showing hallmarks on outer bottom rim
Service bell showing hallmarks on outer bottom rim
Underside of service bell with hallmarks, and clapper Underside of service bell with hallmarks, and clapper Underside of service bell with hallmarks, and clapper
Underside of service bell with hallmarks, and clapper

The hallmarks present on the underside of the royal hand bell include:
1. "A Crowned" for the Paris charge for large silver: 1783 to 1789 under France's Tax Farmer Henri Clavel
2. Partial J.P.C. Maker's mark for Jean Pierre Charpenat: 1782-1804; Paris
3. Partial "P Crowned" Paris Community Mark for 1787-1788: 950/1000 fineness

In addition, the hallmarks on the outer bottom rim:
4. Minerve 1st, for 950/1000 fineness after 1838 (top)
5. Discharge Mark for Paris, eagle's head facing left: 1786-1789 under France's Tax Farmer Henri Clavel (bottom rim in between bordures)
In France the 18th century discharge marks were always emblems or signs depending on the size of the silver piece. This discharge mark was usually punched in an area different from where the Community, Charge and Makers mark were found. This was done to prove authenticity and help avoid fraud and imitation hallmarks. They are therefore usually harder to find, and in the case of the Queen's service bell, it was placed on the outside bottom rim in between the filet pattern - proving it harder to erase or copy another one over it. Just as another note, most high end hand bells have their own individual bell tone, and in some cases, the silver maker has control over how their bells sound by the way it is formed.

This bell along with the collection of bottles and candlesticks presented above are just a small part of the Queen's full necessaire found in the International Museum of Perfumery. Again, I am extremely grateful to Crystelle Aulagner and Chloé Fargier for their help and access to documentations during my weeks of research there!

These photos, lists and documentations are property of Katherine Palthey and the International Grasse Museum of Perfumery cannot be reproduced without prior consent.

PART 1 of this article is available at

Ms. Christelle Aulagner and Ms. Chloé Fargier; The International Perfume Museum of Grasse; Interviews, documentation, examinations and photos. Thanking these generous people for the time and help they provided me with during my 8 weeks of research in the Museum.
- Parfum et Flacons au XVIII Siècles, Musée International de la Parfumerie, Grasse, 8 Place du Cours.
- Etats des Objets Renfermer dans le Nécessaire de la Cidevant Reine, pour être Portes à la Monnoye, Archives Nationals, 02 410, pg 139-141.
- Descriptif du Nécessaire de Marie Antoinette, Mr Corteault, 1985.
- Indispensables Nécessaires, Reunion des Musees Nationaux, Paris 2007, 49 rue Etienne-Marcel, 75001, Paris.
- International Hallmarks on Silver, Tardy, 6 rue Milton, 75009, Paris 1985.
- Dictionnaire des Poinçons , Emile Beuque , Imprimerie Courtois, 11 rue Rébéval, 1925.
- Le Nécessaire No. 107 Catalogue de Vente le 14 juin, 1985, MM Monnaie, Serret et Portier, Cabinet de Fommervault Experts, 17 rue Drouot, 75009 Paris.
- Marie Antoinette, Reunion des Musees Nationaux Paris 2008, 49 rue Etienne-marcel, 75001, Paris.
- Memoirs of Marie Antoinette, Madame Campan, Book 6, Chapter V,
- La Drame de Varennes June 1791, G. Lenotre, Librairie Académique Perrin & Cie.
- Les Dernières Jours de Marie Antoinette, Frantz Funck-Bretano,
- Cartel Détailler Coffret Marie Antoinette, Musée de Grasse, Service des Ateliers, 2011.
- Thomas Sydenham, definition and history
- Musées de Grasse, website :
- Les Grands Orfèvres de Louis XIII à Charles X Claude Frégnac, Librairie Hachette, 1965.
- Un nécessaire de voyage de la fin du XVIIIe siècle, Alemany-Dessaint, Véronique, La Revue du Louvre, 1986, No 4/5, page 298.

Katherine Palthey
- 2016 -