Lot 130
  • 130

A Rare Charles I Carved Beechwood Box in the Form of a Book, Circa 1630

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  • 5 3/4 in. by 3 1/4 in.
  • 14.6 cm; 8.3 cm
carved to indicate the ribbed spine, boards and pages, one side finely engraved with portraits of King James VI of Scotland and James I of England and his consort Anne of Denmark inscribed respectively Ye Kings Head and Ye Queens head, a stylized tree with foliage between them and with a sliding lid enclosing a void interior, the reverse depicting two women bathing a black child in a circular tub inscribed ye labour in vaine and with the figure of a mermaid admiring herself in a mirror inscribed ye maire maid, the figure of the king retaining very small traces of the possibly original red wax in the engraving.

Catalogue Note

This rare box, which was possibly made to contain tobacco, is engraved on the one side with portraits of a King and Queen who, from their dress, are almost certainly James I and his Queen, Anne of Denmark. The other side with the scene of two women washing a black child beneath the inscription Ye Labour in Vaine is recorded on other objects of the same period, and represents a form of humor which today would not be acceptable. The mermaid gazing at her image in a mirror is a common theme found in the 17th century being commonly found in needlework pictures of the period. Originally the engraved decoration of this box would have been richly accentuated by colored waxes as indicated by the small traces or this red pigment remaining on the King’s costume.

Yvonne Hackenbroch, English and Other Needlework Tapestries and Textiles in the Untermyer Collection, 1960, pl. 44,  fig.69, for an almost identical mermaid represented in needlework, third quarter of the 17th century.