Briefcase (portefeuille or porte documents)

Attributed to Nicolas-Denis Derome French

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 545

Luxurious briefcases were made for statesmen and ministers and sometimes have the name of the owner embroidered or struck on to them. The lock would keep the documents inside safe from prying eyes. Such cases were sold by stationers like a certain Jollivet in Paris whose trade card advertised all kind of writing materials as well as Morrocco leather cases in both red and black that could be closed with a key. This briefcase, however, can be locked by selecting a combination of different letters. Based on similarities of its decoration to book bindings of the period, particularly the bindings “à la dentelle” with lace-like ornament by Nicolas-Denis Derome (1731–1790), the briefcase has been attributed to his workshop. Nicolas-Denis Derome was the most famous member of an important dynasty of Parisian bookbinders. The Musée du Louvre has a Morocco-leather petit necessaire (etui) signed by Charles Derome, the brother of Nicolas-Denis, which shows that the Derome family’s activities were not limited to bookbinding alone.

Briefcase (portefeuille or porte documents), Attributed to Nicolas-Denis Derome (French, 1731–1790), Gilt-tooled red morocco leather, gilt bronze and metal locking mechanism; lined with blue silk, French

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