The Paris jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels was founded in 1904. The firm is renowned for its patented invisible settings, which do away with unsightly prongs: stones are cut with a special channel groove, allowing them to be slipped along concealed settings, like horizontal train tracks. This vanity case is designed in a generically exotic manner, indiscriminately mixing Asian and Near Eastern influences. The carved jade central panel suggests an Islamic screen, while the inlaid gold pattern recalls Chinese fretwork. The case was purchased by Walter L. Richard as a second anniversary gift for his wife, Annette Shelby Bracy, whom he married on February 8, 1936. Its manufacture probably dates to the mid- or late 1920s. Comparable examples were made by the boîtier Alfred Langlois after 1925.
Inscription: Stamped (edge of mirror): VAN CLEEF & ARPELS_30589; engraved (cover of powder compartment: February 8th 1938; stamped (beneath motif of the Place Vendôme, in gold): VAN CLEEF & ARPELS
Marking: Stamped (inside box, four times): [falcon's head above the numeral 3, within a hexagon]
Van Cleef & Arpels, Paris (probably sold in 1938 to Richard); Walter L. Richard, New York and Bel Air, Calif. (1938–57; his gift to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of French Art Deco," August 4, 2009–January 23, 2011, no catalogue.
Louis Carré. A Guide to Old French Plate. London, 1931, p. 208, ill. (mark).
Jared Goss in "Vanities: Art of the Dressing Table." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 71 (Fall 2013), p. 44, no. 58, ill. (color).
Jared Goss. French Art Deco. New York, 2014, pp. 232–33, 264, no. 69, ill. (color, overall and details).