18th Century Chatelaines & Equipage

Last updated: Jan 5, 2024

An item worn at the waist, often carrying small sewing tools, watches, and other objects, suspended from chains. The 18th century term seems to be “equipage,” as we see in this description from Town Eclogues: Thursday; the Bassette-Table, by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu:

Behold this equipage by MATHERS wrought
With fifty guineas (a great pen'orth!) bought!
See on the tooth-pick MARS and CUPID strive,
And both the struggling figures seem to liue.
Upon the bottom see the Queen's bright face;
A myrtle foliage round the thimble case;
JOVE, JOVE himself does on the scissars shine,
The metal and the workmanship divine.

What we call a “chatelaine” seems to have been called an “equipage” (at least in the instance above, as well as in some advertisements (Boston News Letter, April 28, 1768), but not every reference to an “equipage” is what we would call a “chatelaine.” The Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820 points out that it was “an umbrella term that was applied to almost any set of APPAREL or equipment. For example, one advertisement was for 'elegant Tea and Coffee equipages, painted after the Dresden manner' [Newspapers (1780)], another by a 'Coach & Harness Maker' was just for 'all sorts of Equipages in the Compleatest manner' [Tradecards (18c.)], leaving it to the reader to deduce what might be included.”

(See also pincushions, sewing kits, tailors & seamstresses, etc.)

  • Met 32.100.316, gold, enamel, and diamonds, British, 18th century
  • Louvre OA 8027, a watch and chatelaine in silver and gold with diamonds, jasper, and rubies, London, c. 1725-1750
  • V&A M.433 to B-1911, England or Germany, c. 1730; “Pinchbeck chatelaine chased with figures probably representing Apollo and Minerva, incorporating scissors and pen” with shagreen case
  • V&A M.275-1975, England, 1730-1735; “Pinchbeck chatelaine incorporating scissors case, needle case, etui and two thimble cases”
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1952-601,A, a watch with chatelaine, London, 1740-1741; “Paircase watch; pinchbeck outer case with repousse scene of classical figures; gold inner case; dust cap; verge movement with pierced silver cock, diamond capstone, and squared baluster pillars. Pinchbeck chatelaine with repousse and pierced ornament and two pendants holding watch key and two seals. Survives with shaped, black shagreen case lined with red velvet.”
  • Louvre R 418, a watch and chatelaine with floral enamel plaques, 1735-1750 France
  • Met 17.190.1450, a watch (made by John Rich) and chatelaine in agate, gold, diamonds, rubies, and enamel, London, c. 1740
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1952-601,A, a paircase watch in a pinchbeck outer case with a pinchbeck chatelaine (made by Henry H. Fish), London, 1740
  • Hermitage Э-2054, a watch on a chatelaine in gold with diamonds and rubies, Paris, 1740s
  • V&A M.307-1919, a gold chatelaine, England, c. 1740-1760
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art 1964-130-1, a silver chatelaine hook, Philadelphia, 1748
  • MFA 51.653, equipage (chatelaine) with central etui and two appendages, England, c. 1750; “In this example, the belt hook and dependent plaques are cast in relief and feature Erotes figures and goddesses in Classical garb arranged in asymmetric cartouches. Flanking these elements are hinged, oval boxes made of hammered sheet metal decorated with ornamental swags and shells. Now empty, the boxes may once have held a thimble and thread. The main component of the equipage is the etui which is suspended from a swivel hoop and embellished on both sides. Depicted on the front is a seated woman in an idyllic garden reading a book while Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom and patron of the arts, is shown seated in an outdoor setting on reverse. Inside the etui are various gilt-metal implements, including a miniature spoon; a folding knife whose handle is adorned with raised-relief flowers; a pick; and a small scoop. Several utensils are now missing and it is likely that one was a tiny fork.”
  • Louvre OA 6236, painted enamel and gold chatelaine with watch, Paris, mid-18th century
  • Louvre OA 8394, a gold watch and chatelaine covered in roses, Paris, 1750-1752
  • Hermitage Э-4310 a watch on a chatelaine with diamonds, agate, onyx and enamel decorations on gold, England, 1752-1753; also Hermitage Э-4312, a coordinating necessaire on a chatelaine
  • Met 35.102a-h, gold and moss agate, British, c. 1750-1760
  • V&A E.897:72-1988, design for an enamelled and stone-set chatelaine, c. 1755
  • V&A M.4:1 to 5-2004, gold, chased and embossed, London, 1755-1756; “Gold chatelaine from which are suspended a watch, an étui for snuff containing a spoon and a watchkey, and a further étui … The chatelaine and the watchcase are decorated with figure scenes. On the chatelaine there are scenes from the life of King David as described in the Bible. On the watchcase is a scene of Angelica and Medoro carving their initials in a tree, taken from the epic Orlando Furioso by the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto.”
  • Manchester 1953.357, a gilt metal repousse chatelaine, 1755-1760
  • PHM A4959, repousse copper finished in gilt, France, c. 1760
  • Hermitage Э-2055, watch of Catherine II on a chatelaine, gold with chalcedony and enamel, Russia, c. 1760
  • V&A M.16-1932, a gold watch and chatelaine set with topazes and diamonds, Paris, c. 1760
  • V&A E.897:78-1988, design for the upper section of a chatelaine, Paris, c. 1760 (see also V&A E.897:79-1988 for coordinating watch)
  • Examples at the Musée Hyacinthe Rigaud: 4-2, 6-2, 8-2, 14-2, 15-2, 16-2, 17-2, 18-2, 24-2
  • V&A LOAN:GILBERT.336-2008, a chatelaine and watch with gold and enamel, Vienna, c. 1760; “Suite comprising snuffbox, etui, chatelaine and watch. The oval snuffbox is enamelled en plein with six opaque reserves of flowers painted against a mauve ground, bordered by wreaths of translucent green foliage and blue flowers, all over chased radiating lines and chevrons; a concealed hinge runs across the rear of the cover and the box has a flaring thumbpiece. The etui is of flattened oval section, enamelled en plein with four reserves of fruit, flowers and exotic birds within similar wreaths of translucent green and blue; it contains a knife with one gold and one steel blade, a snuff spoon, a toothpick, an earpick, a propelling pencil, scissors and ivory tablets. The chatelaine is formed as a spray of flowers enamelled in opaque colours with translucent green foliage and tied with translucent blue ribbon in three hinged sections from which hangs a watch painted en suite. Its white enamel dial has Roman hours and Arabic minutes and blued steel hands.”
  • Hermitage Э-2056, a watch on a golden chatelaine, London, 1760-1761
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art 1975-140-144, chatelaine with etui, enamel on copper, England, c. 1760-1765
  • Hermitage Э-4307, a watch on a chatelaine decorated in gold, enamel, and diamonds, made in Geneva in the 1760s
  • V&A M.261B-1975, England, 1760-1770; “Gold chatelaine decorated with transluscent dark blue enamel flowers and riveted to pinchbeck”
  • V&A E.897:53-1988, designs for neoclassical chatelaines, Paris, c. 1760-1780
  • Met 24.80.61a-k, nécessaire and châtelaine in enameled copper, Staffordshire, c. 1760-1780
  • V&A E.897:74-1988, a design for chatelaine and étui, Paris, c. 1765
  • Met 49.93.9, a design for an enameled watchcase and chatelaine with mythological figures, c. 1766 (?)
  • Louvre OA 8390, a gold chatelaine with painted enamel, London, 1767-1768
  • V&A C.492:1 to 7-1914, gilt metal with painted enamel, West Midlands, c. 1765-1775; “The main element of this chatelaine is an étui, a container fitted with a penknife, a bodkin for threading ribbon through lace, a combined nail-file and tweezers, and a combined toothpick and earscoop. Because these items are a selection from a fairly standard list of étui equipment, it is possible to tell from the shape of the remaining empty slot that this étui once also contained a hinged pair of ivory memorandum leaves (these could be written on, using a pencil). The small egg-shaped screw-top containers known as breloques may have been for small breath-freshening sweets.”
  • Louvre OA 8607, gilt chatelaine with enamelled pictures of ladies, a watch, and charms, Paris, c. 1767-1800
  • Louvre R 412, a watch and chatelaine, gold with diamond and enamel, Paris, c. 1767-1800
  • Louvre OA 8606, a watch and chatelaine, London, 1768-1770
  • Met 17.190.1439 a-c, a watch and chatelaine, London
  • V&A M.61-1962, a steel chatelaine with colored gold decoration, England, c. 1770
  • Louvre OA 8028, a gold and silver and enameled watch and chatelaine, France, 1770
  • Hermitage Э-4291, a watch on a chatelaine with a vase-shaped seal, Paris, 1770s
  • Hermitage Э-4286, a watch on a chatelaine in diamonds and emeralds, St. Petersburg, 1770s
  • MoL NN2742, c. 1770-1790
  • PHM 86/1673, and 86/1674, chatelaines with jasper/cut steel mounts, Wedgwood, England, c. 1770-1790
  • Met 32.75.33, a gold watch and chatelaine with agate, diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, and carnelian, Regensburg, c. 1775
  • British Museum 1978,1002.414.a, France, c. 1775-1776; “Three coloured gold and silver chatelaine with applied ornament on the hook-plate in the form of symbols of love, Cupid and doves at an altar with a flaming heart, four cartouches decorated with trophies terminating in a suspension hook with a watch, others with watch-keys, a minute compartmented, engraved writing case decorated with baskets of flowers. Inside the case are ivory writing tablets and a discharge mark. The belt-hook and plate are marked fully marked.”
  • British Museum 1979,0101.1, London, c. 1777-1778; “Gold and enamel cased cylinder watch with dumb quarter-repeat and en-suite chatelaine … Chatelaine with medallions of Roman altar scene, head of Hercules, head of Mercury and a swan, all in neo-classical style.”
  • Louvre OA 6229, a watch and chatelaine in gold with jasper and agate, Paris, 1778-1779
  • British Museum 1979,0101.1, a gold chatelaine and quarter-repeating watch, both with painted enamels; “purchased by the eminent physician Sir James Napier in 1779 for £63.10s”
  • Hermitage Э-4287, watch on a chatelaine in gold and silver with emeralds, St. Petersburg, late 1770s-early 1780s
  • Hermitage Э-4282, watch on a chatelaine in gold and silver with diamonds, St. Petersburg, late 1770s-early 1780s
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art 1964-130-2, a chatelaine hook, Philadelphia, 1780
  • V&A M.268-1975, silver and gold chatelaine with marcasite and red glass pastes, Switzerland, c. 1780
  • V&A M.60-1962, steel chatelaine with colored gold decorations, Tula, c. 1780
  • V&A 414:1296-1885, cut-steel beads with blue Wedgwood jasperware and glass, Etruria, c. 1780-1800
  • V&A M.25-1969 cut steel chatelaine with jasper plaques, Soho, 1785
  • Met 1984.1175.1 and 1984.1175.4, designs for etuis and chatelaines
  • Historic New England 1948.128, London, c. 1797; “Gold colored metal (possibly pinchbeck) chatelaine with two miniature paintings on ivory, belt hook is set with an oval miniature depicting a woman in a white dress holding red flowers sitting by an urn and a child or cherub is sitting behind her, the second miniature hangs from three chains from the hook and depicts a woman standing in front of a marble bust on a stand, the second miniature supports four shorter chains (one missing) terminating in loops for the attachment of objects, both miniatures are framed by a row of faceted cut steel beads, cut steel beads are also set on the chains.”
  • Met 2011.580.1, a chatelaine with a calendar, steel and enameled gold, France, probably late 18th century
  • Met 32.75.34 ab, gold, enamel, and steel, Swiss (?), late 18th century
  • British Museum 1978,1002.1167, silver with foiled pastes, England, late 18th century
  • British Museum 1978,1002.1119, cut-steel, England, late 18th century
  • British Museum 1978,1002.404, late 18th century. “Three-coloured gold chatelaine with five suspension hooks bearing needlework implements, a pair of scissors with a sheath on a chain, a thimble in a case, a screw-top lid for a missing needle-case, and two egg-shaped compartments with hinged lids. The hook-plate is decorated in applied coloured gold with a scene of a dog mourning at a tomb. The other elements are decorated with applied flowers and trophies on an engraved ground. Three oak leaves and mark on the hook.”

Depictions of equipage, etc.

Elsewhere on this site: hanging pincushions and scissors as worn by working-class women, often from a ribbon tied to a waistband.