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Chatelaine and watch

LS 1401 a, b.

Date : début XIXe | Medium : openwork steel


A chatelaine was a decorative object worn on the belt (attached with a clip) from which a watch was suspended from a central chain. Very popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it was embellished with additional chains, ending in clasps to which personalised charms could be attached. In this example, the charms depict tools or cutlery: on the first chain we can make out a blacksmith’s tongs and carpenter's pliers, two different compasses and two rulers, and on the next, a knife, a two-pronged fork, a spoon and a sharpening steel. On the other side, near the centre, a compass, a hammer and a butcher's cleaver, while the final chain features two set squares, a ruler, two different hammers, a spade, an axe, and a saw. The work is intricate: the rulers and set square are graduated, the tongs and compass are fully operational and the handles of the cutlery are finely wrought. Nevertheless it is impossible to interpret these as clear symbols of well-defined trades, even though the manual trades are clearly crucial in these pieces. To wear such an object on the belt was to take pleasure in drawing attention to oneself, walking in such a way that the charms rattled. The themes represented on this chatelaine suggest a male owner, but it might equally have been given as a gift by a man to a woman.