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Carved chinoiserie bracelet and case owned by Catherine Dickens



Object number (per part)

DH1040, 2019.4.3

Object name (per part)


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This carved chinoiserie bracelet was owned by Catherine Dickens. Catherine Dickens’s Will lists various special items in a cabinet that she bequeathed to her grandchildren, Beatrice Dickens and her siblings and it is possible this bracelet is one such item. The backs of the pieces reveal that if this bracelet was made in China then the clasps were added after by a British jeweller, as a Chinese piece wouldn’t have been clasped in that way. Chinoiserie, from 'chinois' the French for Chinese, was a style inspired by art and design from China, Japan and other Asian countries in the 18th century.

The bracelet is accompanied by a retailer’s display case made by the jeweller Phillips of 23 Cockspur Street, London. On 16 August 2018, the jewellery expert Charlotte Gere visited the Museum and viewed this item: "The container is definitely specifically for this item; nothing else has ever been in it. Phillips is the maker of the container and they were the very best jewellers of the day. [...] The Phillips retail display case is quite revealing. The firm moved to 23 Cockspur Street in 1855-6 and in 1869 changed their name to Phillips Brothers & Son. [...] The case mark hasn’t got the Prince of Wales feathers – these are added after Phillips gets royal warrant so it must be early. It is possible that it is too early to develop the idea that Charley Dickens sourced the item from a trip to China. Although we shouldn’t dismiss the idea."

Physical description

Carved chinoiserie bracelet of either ivory or bone made of five linked rounded plaques each one showing a scene of people standing between two buildings with decorative tree branches at the top and bottom. The central plaque is the largest, flanked by two slightly smaller ones, and finally two slightly smaller ones at each end. The bracelet has a copper toned clasp and silver toned pins holding the plaques together. The bracelet is accompanied by a retailer’s display case made by the jeweller Phillips of 23 Cockspur Street, London. The date range for the production of the case is 1855/6 – 1869.

Credit line

Purchased with support from the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund (National Lottery), the Art Fund and the Dickens Fellowship.
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