Rare Giles decorated glass Scent Flask, c.1765-70


Complete with its original shagreen case, glass stopper and gilt metal (probably gold) cap, this rare scent flask perfectly represents Giles's harmonizing of the rococo with the neo-classical tastes.

Decorated in gilt with a fancy bird in a landscape and birds in flight, the reverse with a neo-classical vase in a suspended oval cartouche, flanked by olive branches. The sides, shoulders and stopper are decorated with gilt bird's-eyes and sprigs, motifs favoured by Giles in his work on both porcelain and glass.

Gerald Coke illustrates a scent flask with similar decoration, and the Museum of Worcester Porcelain has a blue glass scent bottle of shuttle form, bearing similar bird's-eye motifs.

Contemporary advertisements reveal that perfumes, scented-waters and 'quintessences' were in great demand throughout the 18th century. Kents Directory for the Year 1794 lists 53 perfumers in London, and those of a refined and elegant status would have called on the skills of such as Richard Warren, perfumer at the sign of the Golden Fleece, Mary-le-bonne Street, Golden Square. His trade card mentions storax (styrax), myrrh and frankincense, all natural ingredients useful in the art of perfumery. Members of society could also purchase scent bottles from 'toy sellers', dealers who traded in luxury goods in London, Bath and other playgrounds of Georgian Britain.

Condition: Excellent, with little wear to the gilt decoration, even the minuscule sgraffito details can still be seen. No restoration to any of the component pieces. The bottle itself has no damage at all. The glass stopper may have a minute nick to the base, but it really is the size of a pinhead. The almost certainly gold screw cap has a couple of really tiny dings, one to the top and another to the side. The shagreen may have shrunk slightly with age as there are narrow slits where the ray skin was attached to the body of the case, although these are not obvious and there is no danger of it worsening. The case has a good green colour and patina. The inner catch has a little age-related tarnishing, although the mechanism works well. The case retains the original purple plush lining around the inner rim, base and top, although it shows signs of inevitable wear.

Dimensions: Height (to top of cap) 4.8 cm

Ref. See Launert for a Giles opaque white glass scent bottle with a similar design (Fig. 74).

The Early James Giles and his Contemporary London Decorators, Stephen Hanscombe (Stockspring Antiques Publications, 2008).

James Giles, China and Glass Painter, Stephen Hanscombe (Stockspring Antiques Publications, 2005).

In Search of James Giles, Gerald Coke (Micawber Publications, 1983).

Scent & Scent Bottles, Edmund Launert (Barrie & Jenkins Ltd, 1974).

Bertrand's Toyshop in Bath: Luxury Retailing 1685-1765, Vanessa Brett (Oblong, 2014).


Click on thumbnail above to see larger image