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Silver vinaigrette, Europe, 1701-1900

Like pomanders, vinaigrettes could be used as a vessel to hold strong smelling substances to be sniffed should the user be passing through a particularly smelly area. At a time when miasma theories of disease – the idea that disease was carried by foul air – were dominant, carrying a vinaigrette was considered a protective measure. Vapours from a vinegar-soaked sponge in the bottom were inhaled through the small holes in the top of the ‘acorn’. If a person felt faint they could also sniff their vinaigrette and the sharp vinegar smell might shock their body into action. The other side of the vinaigrette shows a face and could act as a memento mori – a reminder of death. The skull was probably hung from a piece of cord or necklace and carried at all times. It is shown here with another skull-shaped example (A642133).

Object number:

A641486

Related Themes and Topics

 

Glossary:

Glossary: skull

The skeleton of the head of a vertebrate animal, including the brain case, or cranium, and the bones and cartilages of the face and mouth. The skull can be subdivided into two parts: the cranium and the mandible. The human skull is made up from 22 bones.

Glossary: vinaigrette

Small receptacles to contain scented vinegar, formerly used by women, and sometimes men, to ward off faintness. A small container with a perforated top, used to contain an aromatic substance such as vinegar or smelling salts, especially popular for women in Victorian times to combat the aroma from the waste products common in cities.

Glossary: memento mori

Symbols intended to remind the viewer of death. Memento mori are often objects such as skulls or hourglasses, but can also be written inscriptions.

Glossary: pomander

Small containers for fragrant spices or perfumes. A pomander was originally carried in the belief that it kept infection away.