Members' Window # 29
by Giorgio Busetto

A Scandinavian silver Hovedvandsæg

silver Hovedvandsæg (pomander, vinaigrette, spice box) it was with this type of spice box from Scandinavia that a young man indicated his intentions by presenting a 'hovedvandsæg' to the young lady of his choice ('luktevannshus' in Norway).
It literally means 'head-water egg' i.e. an 'egg' to contain 'water' to revive the senses.
It is the successor of the pomander and should also be called 'vinaigrette', since it was used for smelling salts or aromatic vinegar.
Large numbers of these containers, in a variety of styles, date from the 18th into the latter part of the 19th century and are often personalised with pin pricked initials and a date.
'Hovedvandsæg' are of various forms from about 1725. The earlier ones are heart shaped and peculiarly are marked inside at the top of the bottom half or inside the lid. Occasionally above the lid is a semi precious stone held between two birds or fishes. Sometimes they have a standing foot which opens, sometimes just a foot and sometimes no foot.
Some Danes have large collections of 'Hovedvandsæg' and there are entire books (mostly, or all, in Danish) on the subject. Some localities have their own variations in style and decoration.
This unmarked heart-shaped 'hovedvandsæg' has a gilded crown on the top and stands on a base 'weighted' on the bottom (the loading metal maintains traces of gilding).
It has a gilded interior, 18th century geometrical engraving around the rim, flowers and the dedication MOPS on the front.
This 'hovedvandsæg' have any mark on it, therefore it's impossible to determine place and/or date of origin.
It is 3 in. high (cm.7,5)

(information on 'hovedvandsæg' was directly supplied by ASCAS members or obtained by Sigurd Schoubye's two-part article 'Hovedvandsäg' in Silver Magazine, January and March 1990, and by Chr. A. BOJE's book 'DANSKE GULD OG SOLV SMEDEMAERKER FOR 1870', pages 89, 99, 101 and 108, through the kind support of Fred Sinfield and Hymie Dinerstein on ASCAS Association website).
Giorgio Busetto
- 2006-
English text revised by Jayne Dye