Designed to be beautiful as well as functional, objects of vertu are small objects created from precious materials either to be admired simply as works of art or, more often, as luxury items with a practical purpose. The subject includes familiar items such as cigarette cases, scent bottles, snuffboxes, fans, vesta cases, card cases and pin cushions plus once fashionable accoutrements such as vinaigrettes, etuis and bonbonnières.
They collectively take their name from the ‘virtuosity’ of their craftsmanship - be it a presentation gold and gem set box from Romanov Russia or a Cartier vanity case made for a 1920s Flapper. Sworders enjoyed huge interest when offering a collection of diminutive porcelain scent bottles made by the Chelsea and St James’s factories c.1750s.
With new interest from around the world, and perfectly sized to appeal to collectors tight on space, this area has recently enjoyed a revival.