‘For many years I have been anticipating the jewel needs of smart women, because as you probably realise, jewels follow fashions just as clothes... I often wondered why women accepted the evening bag – a shapeless, impractical object which often destroyed the effect of their gowns,… a bag shaped like plum-pudding. This creation is one of the most successful I have ever presented - the minaudière. Women wear it from 5 pm to 5 am. For smart teas, cocktails, little dinners, it adds just that quietly luxurious note’, explained Alfred van Cleef in 1935 (The Tatler, no. 1768, 15 May, 1935). In the same year, the minaudière was patented by van Cleef & Arpels, founded in 1896 in Paris by Alfred van Cleef and his father-in-law, Salomon Arpels. Allegedly, the source of its name was Estelle, van Arpel’s wife, whose ‘minauderies’ (French for ‘mannerisms’) enchanted everyone.
Other jewellers, however, such as Cartier and Boucheron, had naturally realised the demand for vanity cases, such as the present lot, at the same time. Jewelled vanity cases of precious materials had in fact been created since the 1920s, parallel to the broader proliferation of cosmetics such as powder and lipstick. These very elegant vanity cases and powder compacts from the 1920s and 1930s reflect the fashions of the period, combining geometric Art Deco forms with Japanese, Indian or Oriental ornaments. Created in gold, diamonds and hardstones, with ‘exotic’ materials such as jade, corals and lacquer, all were carefully composed as exquisite portable small objects of vertu ‘which smart women like’.
Despite its rather small size - compared with the ideal size of a minaudière, which according to Alfred van Arpels measured 5 inches by 4 ½ inches - it is possible that the vanity case in the present lot was retailed by van Cleef & Arpels. A very similar vanity case, also with the maker's mark of Strauss, Allard & Meyer, signed 'van Cleef & Arpels Paris' on the left side of the rim, was sold at Christie's Geneva, 13 November 2017, lot 81. That example was of similar size and was engraved with the van Cleef & Arpels serial number: 7240 on the underside of the lipstick holder, while the present vanity case is engraved with the serial number: 7246 in the same font in the identical place. The signed example was also struck with the Strauss, Allard and Meyer serial number: 28937 on the top right side of the lid, while the one in the present lot is stamped: 28774.