A Watch for a Chatelaine

In 1797, Mary Stead Pinckney, the wife of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney who had recently been appointed minister to France, while waiting for his credentials to be accepted by the French government, took the opportunity to visit Parisian porcelain factories. French porcelain had become fashionable in America since the alliance with France during the American Revolution.

Mrs. [Henry] Middleton, Ralph [Stead Izard], Eliza [Izard], myself, and a gentleman to conduct us went yesterday to visit the Angouléme manufactory of china … cups & saucers with beautiful miniature figures rivaling the first masters on ivory. Vases from 50 to 1000 louis a pair—an absolute picture … we went to see the whole process, from the lump of clay which they were rolling about as if for a tart, till it took the form of the beautiful ware we had so much admired before. … If I remain in France I shall certainly visit the manufactory of Séve [sic], which is generally accounted superior to that of Angouléme.

While in Paris Mrs. Pinckney commissioned a watch for her thirteen-year-old-niece Eliza Izard. It was the fashion at the time for upper class women to wear chains around their waists to which were attached watches, sewing implements, penknives, and other such items. These chains, or chatelaines, were referred to as “macaronis” after those worn by London dandies who were members of the Macaroni Club.

The letter to Rebecca Izard in January 1797 appears in the Letterbook of Mary Stead Pinckney, Charles F. McCoemb, ed., (New York: Grolier Club, 1946). Eliza Izard’s portrait (1801) is by Edward Greene Malbone, courtesy of Gibbes Nueun of Art: Carolina Art Association. The watch and photograph are from the Charleston Museum in South Carolina.

posted October 15th, 2012 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Americans Abroad, France, Paris

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